Ukraine invasion: Russia attacks Ukraine with huge drone swarm ahead of Victory Day holiday

Russia launched its biggest swarm of drones for months against Ukraine on Monday, the eve of Russia's May 9 holiday celebrating the defeat of Nazi Germany.

Ukraine commemorated the occasion, known as Victory Day, on Monday in a symbolic break with Moscow. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy compared the Ukrainian troops currently fighting Russia with those who had battled the Nazis.

Kyiv's mayor said Russia had fired 60 Iranian-made kamikaze drones at Ukrainian targets, including 36 at the capital, all of which had been shot down. Debris hit apartments and other buildings, injuring at least five people in the city.

A food warehouse was set ablaze by a missile in the Black Sea city of Odesa, where officials reported three people were injured.

It was the biggest drone swarm yet in a renewed Russian air campaign unleashed 10 days ago after a lull since early March.

Kyiv said Moscow was also making a final push to try to capture the ruined eastern city of Bakhmut to deliver President Vladimir Putin what would be his only prize for a costly Russian winter offensive, in time for Victory Day.

Moscow is preparing for Tuesday's Victory Day parade, the most important day in the calendar for Russia under Putin, who evokes the 1945 Soviet triumph over Nazi Germany in trying to rally Russians behind his his invasion of Ukraine.

In a new break with Russia, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy marked Victory Day on Monday rather than Tuesday, announcing that decree a change in the date of the holiday to match the practice of Western allies.

"Recalling the heroism of millions of Ukrainians in that war against Nazism, we see the same heroism in the actions of our soldiers today," said Zelenskiy, who addressed the nation from a hilltop overlooking Kyiv.

A view shows an apartment building damaged by remains of a suicide drone, which local authorities consider to be Iranian made.
A view shows an apartment building damaged by remains of a suicide drone, which local authorities consider to be Iranian made. Photo credit: Reuters


"Just as evil rushed into our towns and villages then, so it does now. As it killed our people then, so it does now," he said. "And all the old evil that modern Russia is bringing back will be defeated, just as Nazism was defeated."

The German army's surrender in 1945 took effect late at night on May 8 in Berlin, when it was already May 9 in Moscow, the date that became the Soviet holiday.

Russia foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that by changing the date, Zelenskiy had betrayed the memory of Ukrainians who fought the Nazis.

"What is worse than an enemy? A traitor. That is Zelenskiy, the embodiment of Judas in the 21st century," she said.

Ukraine, as part of the then-Soviet Union, suffered higher per capita casualties than Russia in World War Two and was one of the heartlands of European Jewry wiped out in the Holocaust.

On the day of Russia's parade, Zelenskiy will underscore Ukraine's ambition to join the West by receiving European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, whose visit to the war zone the EU took the unusual step of announcing in advance.

An explosion of a drone is seen in the sky over the city during a Russian drone strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv.
An explosion of a drone is seen in the sky over the city during a Russian drone strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv. Photo credit: Reuters

Brussels marks May 9 as "Europe Day", honouring a French declaration in 1950 that led to the founding of the body that became the EU.

Russia has cancelled or curtailed some of the huge military parades that normally accompany Victory Day. Western countries say this is in part out of security concerns, in part for fear of publicising Russia's heavy casualties in Ukraine, and in part because Moscow has lost so much military hardware in its largely fruitless, grinding winter offensive.

Ukraine, which last year drove Russian forces back from the ramparts of the capital and recovered substantial territory, has maintained a defensive posture for the past six months, but says its counteroffensive will begin soon.


Ground forces commander Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi said on Sunday that Kyiv intended to prevent Russia declaring victory by May 9 in Bakhmut, the town in eastern Ukraine that it has been trying to capture since last summer.

The block-by-block Russian advance there is led by Wagner, a private army that recruited thousands of convicts from prison. Its boss announced last week that he would pull out of Bakhmut, accusing the regular army of withholding ammunition, but said on Sunday he had now been promised supplies.

In Kyiv, explosions could be heard through the night. Three people were injured in blasts in the Solomyanskyi district and two when drone wreckage fell in the Sviatoshyn district, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said.

Kyiv's military administration said drone wreckage crashed onto a runway at Zhuliany airport, one of two passenger airports. Drone debris also damaged a two-storey building in the central Shevchenkivskyi district.

In Odesa, flames engulfed what the Ukrainian Red Cross said was a 1,000 sq m food warehouse that it was operating. It said all the humanitarian aid stored there had been destroyed.

After air raid alerts blared for hours over roughly two-thirds of Ukraine, local media said explosions sounded in the southern region of Kherson and southeastern Zaporizhzhia.

Vladimir Rogov, a Russian-installed official in Zaporizhzhia, said Russian forces hit a warehouse and Ukrainian troops' position in the small city of Orikhiv. Reuters was unable to independently verify the report.

The Russian-appointed governor, Yevgeny Balitsky, said around 3,000 civilians had been evacuated from areas near the front line that had come under shelling in Zaporizhzhia, one of the areas where Ukraine could launch its counteroffensive.