KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian forces used Iranian-made kamikaze drones to attack Ukraine's capital and Odesa regions and slammed other areas with missiles, Ukrainian officials said Thursday as Moscow punished the country for a fourth day after a truck bomb attack on a bridge to Russia-annexed Crimea.
A strike carried out near Makrariv, a small city located 50 kilometers (31 miles) west of Kyiv, destroyed critical infrastructure. Throughout the capital region, residents whose lives had resumed some normalcy when the war moved east months ago again awoke to air raid sirens.
It wasn't clear if the explosive-packed drones caused any casualties. Ukrainian officials said 13 people were killed and 37 wounded in the past day in Russian missile strikes that targeted nine regions of Ukraine.
The intensity of Russia’s attacks on civilian areas has increased in recent weeks as its military lost ground in multiple occupied regions of Ukraine that President Vladimir Putin illegally claimed as Russian territory.
The Russian military resumed widespread attacks in Ukraine on Monday following an explosion that damaged the Kerch Bridge. The 12-mile span holds importance as a symbol of Moscow's power and carries military supplies from Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
The speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament said Thursday Russian forces struck more than 70 energy facilities in Ukraine this week. He threatened an “even tougher” response to future attacks by “the Kyiv regime,” although Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for the bridge bombing.
“All the organizers and perpetrators of the terrorist attacks must be found; those who resist must be destroyed,” State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin wrote on Telegram.
On Monday, Putin said a massive barrage of missile strikes across Ukraine was retaliation for what he called Kyiv’s “terrorist” actions targeting the Kerch Bridge. Putin vowed a “tough” and “proportionate” response to Ukrainian attacks that threatened Russia’s security.
Kyiv was hit at least four times during Monday’s massive strikes, which killed at least 19 people and wounded more than 100 across the country.
Russian forces have made early morning attacks a daily occurrence in southern Ukraine as the Ukrainian military wages a counteroffensive aimed at recapturing occupied areas.
In the southern city of Mykolaiv, overnight shelling destroyed a five-story apartment building as fighting continued along Ukraine’s southern front. The Mykolaiv regional governor, Vitaliy Kim, said an 11-year-old boy was pulled from the rubble after six hours and rescue teams were searching for seven more people.
Kim said the building was hit by an S-300 missile, a type ordinarily used for targeting military aircraft but the Russian military appears to be increasingly using for unprecise ground strikes.
Ukraine’s military said its current air defenses have shot down dozens of incoming Russian missiles and Shahed-136 drones, the so-called kamikaze drones that have played an increasingly deadly role in the war.
Ukraine’s air force command said Thursday its air defense shot down six Iranian drones from over the Odesa and Mykolaiv regions during the night. Ukrainian officials said that Iranian instructors based in the occupied regions of Ukraine have trained Russians how to operate the drones.
Britain said Thursday it would provide missiles for advanced NASAM anti-aircraft systems that the Pentagon plans to send to Ukraine in coming weeks. It’s also sending hundreds of additional aerial drones for information gathering and logistics support, plus 18 more howitzer artillery guns.
“These weapons will help Ukraine defend its skies from attacks and strengthen their overall missile defense alongside the U.S. NASAMS,” U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said.
The systems, which Kyiv has long wanted, are designed to provide medium- to long-range defense against missile attacks.
The pledge came as NATO defense ministers led a meeting in Brussels of the Western military alliance's secretive Nuclear Planning Group. NATO plans to hold a nuclear exercise next week amid concerns over Putin’s insistence he would use any means necessary to defend Russian territory, including the illegally annexed regions of Ukraine.
NATO is keeping a wary eye on Russia’s movements, but has so far seen no change in its nuclear posture. Russia is expected to hold its own nuclear exercises soon, possibly at the same time as NATO or just after, according to NATO diplomats.
Putin met Thursday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of regional summit in Astana, Kazakhstan. U.N. officials expressed hope a day earlier that the meeting would lead to an extension of agreements that led to the resumption of Ukrainian grain exports and allow Russia to ship fertilizers.
“We are determined to transport Russia’s grain and fertilizer to underdeveloped countries through Turkey,” Erdogan said, adding that Ankara and Moscow could jointly designate the countries the products would go to.
The war in Ukraine has created food shortages and price increases by slowing shipments of agricultural products.
Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine