Early Monday morning, residents of Kyiv described the inescapable, dystopian buzz of Iranian-made Shahed-136s attack drones—which fly low into the city, weaving around buildings and carrying precision missiles that prove impossible to stop.
The so-called kamikaze drones are a precise weapon shot from flatbed trucks—which leaves them vulnerable to anti-aircraft missiles as they are deployed, but they are stealthy enough to cause major damage once inside city limits. The horrifying buzzing is almost always followed by the sort of loud explosions that rocked the Ukrainian capital in the early hours of Monday morning, killing several, including a woman who was in her sixth month of pregnancy.
The woman was identified by GoodWine wine sellers on their Facebook page as their “incredibly kind” sommelier Vika, who they say started at the company six years ago as the only female among the male sommeliers, but who “never showed weakness, there were no difficult tasks, challenges for her.”
The owners called her “part of the family.” In a heartfelt tribute, the wine shop owners wrote, “Today is a very dark day for our company.” The Daily Beast has not been able to independently confirm the identity of the victim, but the wine shop said Vika was pregnant, and that she was “found in the arms of her beloved husband Bogdan and a cat,” which squares with information released by Ukrainian authorities.
The use of the weapons is a sign that Russia is running low on precision guided weapons, one analyst told The New York Times.
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said it was able to shoot down some of the terrifying drones, but some got through. Ukraine said nine of the drones were knocked out by an anti-aircraft missiles deployed by fighter jets and two were hit by forces on the ground. “In the past 13 hours, #UAarmy shot down 37 Iranian Shahed-136 drones and 3 cruise missiles launched by Russian terrorists,” the ministry tweeted.
A group of patrolmen and women who were guarding a residential area inside Kyiv told Ukraine’s advisor to internal affairs Anton Gerashchenko that they heard the familiar buzz of the drone overhead, so just started shooting at it with their machine guns and pistols. It fell about 50 meters from where they were standing, they said. The minister tweeted a brief interview and the remnants of the drone with what he wrote on Telegram also included the words, “for Luch” referring to Belgorod, where a power plant was attacked inside Russia.
The attack by those that made it into the capital killed at least three people and wounded 18, according to Ukraine’s State Emergency Service. Several others were unaccounted and thought to be under rubble.
“The bodies of three dead civilians were pulled out during search and rescue operations in a residential building in the city center, hit by a Russian drone,” Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko confirmed on Telegram, according to CNN. “Among them is a young couple, a husband and wife, who were expecting a child. The woman was six months pregnant.”
The attacks, which were launched from occupied southern Ukraine, mark a new strategy in Russia’s increasingly desperate attack on the sovereign nation.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned that Russia had bought 2,400 of the kamikaze drones from Iran—each with the capacity to carry fully loaded precision-guided missiles.
Klitschko said three or four explosions had been heard. Kyiv’s main train station was also reportedly hit, but no details of casualty numbers have been released.
Andriy Yermak, head of President Zelensky’s office, wrote on Telegram that Ukraine needed help defending against Russia’s new weapon of choice. “We need more air defense systems and as soon as possible,” he wrote. “We have no time for slow actions. More weapons to defend the sky and destroy the enemy. So be it.”
Iran denied furnishing weapons to Russia. The strikes come a week after Vladimir Putin rained down missiles on Kyiv and other cities across Ukraine, killing at least 14 people and wounding more than 100 in what he framed as a reprisal for the attack on a key bridge that connects Russia to occupied Crimea.