Kyiv suffers largest drone attack since Russian invasion

Servicemen of the 12th Special Forces Brigade Azov of the National Guard of Ukraine prepare to fire from a howitzer LH-70 towards Russian troops at a position near a frontline, Ukraine, Nov. 22, 2023. [Reuters]

Kyiv was rocked early Saturday by Russia's largest drone attack since its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Ukraine said it shot down 74 of the 75 Iranian-designed Shahed drones launched by Russia in a six-hour air raid.

Five people, including a child, were wounded in the attack, according to Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko's Telegram post. Sixty-six of the drones were downed over Kyiv, Ukraine's air force said. The damage caused power outages for 17,000 people, a city official said.

"It looks like tonight we heard the overture. The prelude to the winter season," Serhiy Fursa, a prominent Ukrainian economist, wrote on Facebook.

The attack came on Holodomor Remembrance Day as Ukrainians mark the famine that starved several million people to death in the 1930s. The Holodomor — which means "death by starvation" in Ukrainian — was a deliberate policy of Josef Stalin that Ukrainians, along with more than 30 countries, consider genocide but something Moscow denies.

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Russia has carried out 911 attacks, killing 19 Ukrainians and wounding 84 across the country in the last week.

"The enemy is intensifying its attacks, trying to destroy Ukraine and Ukrainians," he said in a post on the Telegram messaging app. It was doing so deliberately, "just like 90 years ago, when Russia killed millions of our ancestors."

Black Sea fleet

The British Defense Ministry said Saturday in its daily report on the invasion that Russia's Black Sea Fleet's ability to reload vessels with cruise missiles at its Novorossiysk base will likely be "a significant factor" in the effectiveness of the fleet.

The fleet has traditionally reloaded its cruise missiles at Sevastopol, but the Crimean facility is facing increasing risk of being hit by Ukrainian long-range strikes.

The British intelligence update said Novorossiysk would be a better alternative site, but that move would require relocating and reloading the missiles and would also require a new delivery, storage, handling and loading processes.

Last month, Ukraine said Russia was having logistical problems with firing cruise missiles from Novorossiysk.

Three victories

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Friday his country is looking for "three victories" from its Western allies, including the passage of two military aid packages — by the United States and the European Union — and the formal start of talks to join the European bloc.

"We need three victories," Zelenskyy told a news conference in Kyiv. "The first one is the victory with U.S. Congress. It's a challenge, it's not easy, but Ukraine is doing everything."

U.S. President Joe Biden has proposed billions of dollars in new assistance for Ukraine, but the funding was not included in a stopgap measure passed by Congress earlier this month.

Some Republican lawmakers have expressed opposition to approving more aid for Ukraine, however, a majority of Republicans and Democrats in Congress still support the additional aid.

Zelenskyy said the second "victory" needed abroad is that "we need the help from the EU on the 50-billion-euro package," and "the third is to open a dialog about our future membership."

The European Union recently announced a 50-billion-euro package for Ukraine, but it has not yet been approved and is facing opposition by Hungary. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has also said he is opposed to launching EU membership talks with Kyiv.

Zelenskyy made the comments at a joint news conference in Kyiv with Latvian President Edgars Rinkevics, who expressed optimism that the EU aid package for Ukraine would eventually pass.

Rinkevics was in Kyiv during the Saturday morning attack and posted a photo of himself on social media inside a dark bomb shelter.