Russia steps up strikes on Ukraine ahead of May 9 Victory Day holiday

KYIV — Russia launched a wave of drone, missile and air strikes on Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities, officials said on Monday, as Moscow stepping up attacks while preparing for its cherished Victory Day holiday celebrating the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945.

As many as 16 missile strikes had targeted the cities of Kharkiv, Kherson, Mykolaiv and Odesa regions, in addition to 61 airstrikes and 52 rocket salvos on Ukrainian positions and populated areas, the General Staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said in its morning update on the fighting.

Ukrainian air defenses destroyed all 35 Iranian-made Shahed drones Russia had launched, the military said.

Kyiv’s mayor said at least five people were wounded in the capital amid damage to a fuel depot, cars, buildings and infrastructure.

“Unfortunately, there are dead and wounded civilians, high-rise buildings, private homes and other civilian infrastructure were damaged,” the military said.

A food warehouse was set ablaze in the Black Sea city of Odesa.

Reuters was unable to independently verify the reports.

The fresh attacks come as Moscow prepares for Tuesday’s Victory Day parade, a key event for President Vladimir Putin who has evoked the spirit of the Soviet triumph over Nazi Germany, having accused Ukraine of being in the grip of a new kind of fascism.

Ukraine and its allies say the accusation was a baseless pretext for Russia’s unprovoked invasion in February, 2022, which resulted in the biggest conflict in Europe since World War II, killing thousands and forcing millions to flee the country.

“We must always be prepared for enemy treachery and defense,” Ukrainian deputy defense minister Hanna Malyar said in a post on the Telegram messaging app.

Russia stepped up shelling of Bakhmut, hoping to take it by Tuesday, Ukraine’s top general leading the besieged city’s defense said, after Russia’s Wagner mercenary group appeared to ditch plans to withdraw from it.

Three people were injured in blasts in Kyiv’s Solomyanskyi district and two when drone wreckage fell in the Sviatoshyn district, both west of the capital’s center, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Telegram.

Kyiv’s military administration said drone wreckage fell on a runway at Zhuliany airport, one of the capital’s two passenger airports, drawing emergency services there, although there was no fire.

Drone debris seemed to have hit a two-storey building in the central district of Shevchenkivskyi, causing damage, it added.

Reuters witnesses said they heard numerous explosions in Kyiv, with local officials saying air defense systems were repelling the attacks. — Reuters