Russia attacked Kyiv with nearly 30 “kamikaze” drones on Monday morning, killing four, including a pregnant woman and her partner, days after Vladimir Putin said there would be no more “massive strikes” on Ukraine.
Victoria and Bohan, both 34, were found dead after a residential building was struck in the city’s central Shevchenkiv district, a Ukrainian official said. Victoria was six months pregnant, the capital’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, added.
Videos showed Iranian Shahed drones, rebranded by Russia as Geran-2, with a distinctive triangle shape flying low over the city, then crashing into the ground and exploding, prompting terrified onlookers to flee.
Five explosions were heard in the capital, the mayor said, after 28 drones were launched towards the city by Russia’s military. The others were shot down from the ground by small arms fire and other air defences.
Klitschko said four people were killed after the residential building was hit, while 18 residents were rescued, including two from under the rubble. A search and rescue operation on the site was continuing, he added.
Ukrainian politicians said the latest Russian attack showed the need for the west to provide additional military aid. Andriy Yermak, the head of the president’s office, said: “We need more air defence systems and as soon as possible. We have no time for slow actions. More weapons to defend the sky and destroy the enemy.”
Iran denies supplying the drones to Russia but Ukraine and western countries and experts say the design matches that originally from Tehran, prompting calls from leaders in Kyiv for fresh measures to be taken against the country.
The foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said he had addressed EU foreign affairs ministers from a bomb shelter because of the attacks. He added that he had “called on EU to impose sanctions on Iran for providing Russia with drones” as well as a further package aimed directly at Russia.
The US warned it would take action against companies and nations working with Iran’s drone program, describing the deepening alliance between Moscow and Tehran as “a profound threat.”
“Anyone doing business with Iran that could have any link to UAVs or ballistic missile developments or the flow of arms from Iran to Russia should be very careful and do their due diligence – the US will not hesitate to use sanctions or take actions against perpetrators,” said a State Department spokesman.
Russia has been making growing use of Shahed-136 drones and the smaller 131s supplied by Iran. The 136s have an operating range of 1,000km (620 miles) and crash into their targets – hence the kamikaze description – detonating deadly explosive charges.
Moscow acquired 2,400 drones from Iran, Ukraine believes, and they were first used heavily against targets in the south before being redeployed to Belarus in the past week. Monday’s strikes may be the first time they have been used against the Ukrainian capital.
Klitschko circulated a picture of a destroyed drone on Monday morning, while other media showed a fragment of a drone that had been marked “for Belgorod”, an apparent retaliation for attacks on the Russian border city, from where multiple rocket attacks had been launched on Ukraine.
The attacks came exactly one week after Russia unleashed its heaviest aerial bombardment of Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities since the start of the war – also during morning rush hour – in response to the bombing of the bridge between Russia and Crimea.
Ukraine’s president accused Russia of terrorism, but said his country’s resolve remained firm. “All night and all morning, the enemy terrorises the civilian population,” Volodymyr Zelenskiy said.
“Kamikaze drones and missiles are attacking all of Ukraine. A residential building was hit in Kyiv. The enemy can attack our cities, but it won’t be able to break us. The occupiers will get only fair punishment and condemnation of future generations. And we will get victory.”
Local officials also reported that drones had struck two vast tanks of sunflower oil in the southern city of Mykolaiv. Video showed the oil running through the streets, from a terminal that handles 17% of the world’s supplies.
Strikes were also reported in Sumy province, in the country’s north-east, where four more were reported killed, and in Dnipro, in the south-east, where a fire broke out at an energy facility after it was hit by a missile.
The Ukrainian prime minister, Denys Shmyhal, said “critical infrastructure” had been targeted in three regions, Kyiv, Sumy and Dnipro. Officials were “working on fixing the consequences of the shelling and restoring electricity supply” where it had been cut off.
In Kyiv, air raid sirens, an almost daily occurrence frequently ignored by citizens, sounded at 6.25am. This time, however, they were swiftly followed by a series of explosions between 6.35am and 6.58am (3.35am and 3.58am GMT). A second series of blasts was heard by Guardian correspondents at about 8.15am local time.
The head of Ukraine’s state railway, Alexander Kamyshin, said some drone strikes had hit near Kyiv’s central station. Scores of people sheltered in an underpass at the station, at a time of day when the streets above would normally have been busy.
The attack came a week after Russian missile strikes on the Ukrainian capital and other centres. After the attack on 10 October, Putin said most designated targets of the strikes had been hit, adding that it was not his aim to destroy Ukraine.
Speaking to journalists after a summit with regional leaders in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, the Russian leader said the recent strikes had destroyed 22 out of the 29 targets in Ukraine set by the military and that “they are getting” the remaining seven.
“There’s no need for massive strikes. We now have other tasks,” he said.