Ukraine 'shoots down' advanced missiles lauded by Putin over Kyiv
Ukrainian air defences, bolstered by sophisticated Western-supplied systems, thwarted an intense Russian air attack on Kyiv, shooting down all missiles aimed at the capital, officials said.
The bombardment on Tuesday, which targeted locations across Ukraine, included six Russian Kinzhal aero-ballistic hypersonic missiles, the most fired in a single attack in the war so far, according to Ukrainian air force spokesman Yurii Ihnat.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly touted the Kinzhals as providing a key strategic competitive advantage and among the most advanced weapons in his country's arsenal.
The missiles are difficult to detect and intercept because of their hypersonic speed and maneuverability.
READ MORE: CIA recruiting Russian spies disaffected with Ukraine war
If Ukraine's claim of having shot down six Kinzhal missiles fired on Tuesday is confirmed, it would mark another blow to Putin's war efforts and show the increasing effectiveness of the Ukraine's air defences.
Air force spokesman Ihnat, who said in March that Ukraine lacked the equipment to intercept the Kinzhals, didn't explain what systems were used to knock them down.
Since March, Western countries have supplied Ukraine with various air defence systems.
Russia fired the Kinzhals from MiG-31K warplanes, along with nine cruise missiles from ships in the Black Sea and three S-400 cruise missiles launched from the ground, Ihnat said.
In all, Ukraine's military said later, Russia had targeted Ukraine with 27 missiles in a day and launched 37 airstrikes.
Russia began using the Kinzhal to strike targets in Ukraine early in the invasion but has used the expensive weapon sparingly and against priority targets, apparently reflecting limited availability.
The Russian military says the missile's range is up to 2000km and it can fly at 10 times the speed of sound.
Its speed and heavy warhead allow the Kinzhal to destroy heavily fortified targets, such as underground bunkers or mountain tunnels.
READ MORE: Biden's trip to Australia cancelled
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu on Tuesday contested the Ukrainian claims, telling the state-run RIA-Novosti news agency: "We have not launched as many Kinzhals as they allegedly shoot down every time with their statements."
Loud explosions boomed over Kyiv in the major nighttime attack apparently aimed at overwhelming Ukraine's air defences.
Kyiv's mayor reported three people were wounded.
The barrage comes as European leaders sought new ways to punish Russia for the war and a Chinese envoy sought traction for Beijing's peace proposal, which appears to have made little impression on the warring sides.
It also came as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy returned home from a whirlwind European tour to seek more military aid.
The overnight attack on Kyiv was "exceptional in its density — the maximum number of attacking missiles in the shortest period of time," said Serhii Popko, the head of the Kyiv military administration.
It was the eighth time this month that Russian air raids had targeted the capital, a clear escalation after weeks of lull and ahead of a much-anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive using newly supplied advanced Western weapons.
Sophisticated Western air defence systems, including American-made Patriot missiles, have helped spare Kyiv from the kind of destruction witnessed along the main front line in the country's east and south.
While most of the ground fighting is stale-mated along that front line, both sides are targeting other territory with long-range weapons.
Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said a Kinzhal destroyed a Patriot missile battery in Kyiv but he didn't provide evidence, and the statement couldn't be independently verified.
Ihnat, the Ukrainian air force spokesman, refused to comment on the claim.
Sign up here to receive our daily newsletters and breaking news alerts, sent straight to your inbox.