Ukraine’s air defenses shot down six of the most sophisticated conventional weapons in Russia’s arsenal, hypersonic Kinzhal missiles, according to Ukrainian and American officials, during a barrage of missiles and drones aimed at Kyiv, the capital, on Tuesday.
Russia’s Defense Ministry says at least one Kinzhal has hit an American-made Patriot system, the most advanced US land-based air defense system, which Washington has provided to Ukraine following its urgent requests to help defend against a Russian missile and drone attack. attacks.
A statement from Ukraine’s Air Force did not specify whether the Patriot system was, in fact, involved in the shooting down of Russian missiles in one of the largest air strikes on Moscow since early March. But two U.S. officials confirmed that one Patriot was damaged, not destroyed, in the Tuesday night attack, an assessment first reported by CNN. And one of the Americans confirmed that Ukraine had downed six Kinzhal missiles.
After an assessment of the damage to the Patriot to determine whether parts of the system need to be replaced or can be repaired, the first conclusion is that the system, installed in an airfield, still works against all threats – including hypersonic missiles. — the American officials said.
“At 3 o’clock in the morning, our people woke up to explosions,” President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said in a video speech to the Council of Europe, a human rights organization. “Eighteen Russian missiles of different types are in our skies, mainly, ballistic ones, which the terrorist state is proud of.”
“We were told that such missiles would bring a guaranteed death because it was supposed to be impossible to shoot,” he said, adding: “But all lives were protected. All missiles were shot, including ballistic ones – 100 percent. This is a historic result.”
It is unclear whether the Patriot can intercept hypersonic missiles, which many experts say can be detected by radars too quickly for traditional air defense systems to respond.
Hypersonic weapons can travel at least five times the speed of sound — more than a mile per second — and maneuver to evade defenses. US officials say Kinzhal meets the definition, but some Western analysts have expressed doubts about its maneuverability.
Ukraine has so far lacked the ability to intercept Kinzhals and pressured allies for Patriot systems. Only two such systems are believed to be in Ukraine, and the weapons are considered essential to the expected Ukrainian counter-offensive to drive Russian forces from its territory. Several dozen Ukrainian soldiers this year took a crash course in the use of Patriot, training on US soil.
An interceptor missile from the Patriot costs about $4 million, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Each launcher costs about $10 million. Some analysts consider the system far from foolproof, and there is some debate about the actual shooting rate.
Russia has targeted the Patriot before. On May 4, Ukraine’s Air Force said it had intercepted a Kinzhal — using the Patriot targeting system — for the first time since the start of the war in February 2022. Three senior US officials confirmed the shooting and said they received information. about the strike from the Ukrainian military. An official added that US military analysts confirmed the claim using technical means.
Tuesday’s attack in Kyiv was the eighth major attack in the city this month. The barrage was unusual in the number of missiles launched in a short period of time, said Serhiy Popko, the head of Kyiv’s military administration. Ukrainian officials said the attacks were aimed at exhausting their air defenses.
The sky above Kyiv lit up around 3 a.m. Tuesday with loud explosions as air defenses collided with incoming missiles, raining debris across the city. At least three people were injured, according to the town’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko. Cars caught fire, a building was damaged, and debris fell on the grounds of the Kyiv Zoo, Mr. Klitschko said. None of the animals or workers were injured, he said.
Russia also launched nine Kalibr cruise missiles from ships in the Black Sea, three short-range ballistic missiles from land and a number of drones, according to the commander in chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
The aerial attack in Kyiv came amid reports that the head of Ukraine’s Supreme Court, Vsevolod Knyazev, was jailed after he was accused of a corruption scheme in which he received $2.7 million in bribes. A prosecutor confirmed the arrest during a news briefing and said others were also being investigated.
The chief magistrate and a lawyer were caught “red-handed while receiving an illegal benefit,” Ukraine’s Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office said on the Telegram messaging app.
“This is a dark day in the history of the court,” the high court judges said in a statement. “We must be worthy and able to withstand such a blow.”
The arrest comes amid ongoing pressure on Mr. Zelensky from Western allies to fight corruption before any talks to join the European Union, and as doubts grow in the United States about billions in foreign aid flowing to Ukraine.
Earlier this year, Mr. Zelensky doubled down on high-profile enforcement aimed at maintaining confidence in the country’s wartime government, with authorities raiding officials’ homes and offices, and some officers fired.
The latest bombing in Russia happened as Mr. Zelensky posted a video of himself on a train returning to Kyiv after a four-nation tour of Western Europe where he secured billions of dollars in pledges for military aid.
Britain has promised air-defense missiles and drones in addition to the long-range cruise missiles it recently delivered. Germany said it would provide a nearly $3 billion package including air defense systems, drones, Leopard tanks and armored fighting vehicles.
Later, after Ukraine shot down Russian missiles, Mr. Zelensky said in his evening speech: “We’ve heard before that the Patriots are not realistic. And now, here they are, Patriots.”
Reporting was contributed by John Ismay, Helen Cooper, Daniel Victor, Anushka Patil and Justin Jones.