Dozens of firemen rushed to put out fires in a town near Ukraine’s capital Kyiv on Wednesday after repeated attacks were triggered by what local officials said were Iranian-made loitering bombs, sometimes known as ‘kamikaze drones.’
Six drones struck a building overnight in Bila Tserkva, some 75 kilometers (45 miles) south of Kiev, according to Oleksiy Kuleba, governor of the Kyiv area.
In the previous three weeks, Ukraine has reported a flurry of Russian strikes using Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones, but the hit on Bila Tserkva was by far the closest to Kyiv.
Iran denies sending the drones to Russia, and the Kremlin has remained silent.
“A loud, piercing sound could be heard. I heard the first strike and saw and heard the second. There heard a roar, followed by a ‘boom,’ and then an explosion “Volodymyr, an 80-year-old man who lives across the street from the damaged building, agreed.
Other neighbors told Reuters that they heard four explosions in rapid succession, followed by two more an hour later.
Ukrainian forces appear to have been caught on the back foot by the drones, which Kyiv says Moscow started using on the battlefield in September.
Speaking on television on Wednesday, Ukrainian air force spokesman Yuriy Ihnat said the drones were launched from occupied areas in southern Ukraine, and that six further drones had been shot down before reaching their target.
“This is a new threat for all the defense forces (of Ukraine), and we need to use all available means to try to counter it,” Ihnat said, comparing the drone’s small size to an artillery shell.
The attacks left locals in Bila Tserkva shaken and seeking cover when subsequent air raid sirens sounded.
“It is beyond me what those Russians think. I do not know when we will manage to chase them from our territory. It is just tears and heartache for my Ukraine. That’s all I can say,” said 74-year-old Lyudmyla Rachevska.