Russia has pounded Ukraine again with ‘kamikaze’ suicide drones, causing chaos in Kyiv as buildings erupted into fireballs and panicked citizens fled for safety or even tried to shoot them down.
The Iran-supplied Shahed-136 weapons rained down on the capital in successive waves of 28 drones, Kyiv’s mayor Vitali Klitschko said.
Five smashed into the capital itself while 13 or more were shot down in the wider Kyiv region, all of them as they flew in from the south, said a spokesman for the Ukrainian Air Force, Yurii Ihnat.
One strike appeared to target the city’s heating network, hitting an operations centre while another slammed into a four-story residential building, ripping a large hole in it and collapsing at least three apartments on top of each other, killing three.
The Shaheds, which Russia has rebranded as Geran-2 drones, pack an explosive charge and be fired one after the other.
With a range of more than 600 miles, the explosive-laden drones can ‘loiter’ above potential targets for hours before being slammed directly into enemy soldiers, vehicles or buildings from above – causing an explosion.
An Iranian-made suicide drone, launched by Russia, is seen flying above Kyiv today after dozens of the craft were sent to swarm the capital – blowing up civilian buildings and power infrastructure
A ball of smoke and flames rises over the streets of Kyiv as the city is bombarded by a swarm of Iranian-made kamikaze drones early on Monday, hitting residential areas and energy infrastructure
Astonishing images capture the moment a suicide drones dives towards the streets of Kyiv (left) and the moment people run for shelter after it explodes (right)
Iranian Shahed-136 UAVs: Facts and figures
Ukraine has accused Russia of using Iranian-made Shahed-136 UAVs – also known as suicide drones – against military and civilian targets.
Tehran has denied selling the drones to Russia, but there is mounting evidence that Moscow is deploying the weapon.
Here are some facts and figures about the deadly drone:
- Weapon type: Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)
- In service since: 2021
- Made in: Iran
- Maker: HESA (Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industries Corporation)
- Weight: 440lbs
- Warhead: 80lbs
- Length: 12 feet
- Wingspan: 8 feet
- Range: 600 miles
- Flight height: 13,000ft max.
- Speed: 120 miles per hour
- Used in: Yemen, Iraq and Ukraine
Iranian-made Shahed-136 UAVs
Andrii Yermak, the head of the Ukrainian president’s office, confirmed in a social media post that Shahed drones were among those used in the strike.
Iran has previously denied providing Russia with weapons, although its Revolutionary Guard chief has boasted about providing arms to the world’s top powers, without elaborating.
The drones have also been repeatedly used by Russia elsewhere in Ukraine in recent weeks to target urban centers and power stations as Putin exacted revenge for the bombing of the Crimean bridge.
They are comparatively cheap, costing in the region of $20,000.
Their use in swarms presents a challenge to Ukrainian air defenses, said Ihnat, the Air Force spokesman.
Western nations have promised to bolster Ukrainian air defenses with systems that can shoot down drones but much of that weaponry has yet to arrive and, in some cases, may be months away.
‘The challenges are serious because the air defense forces and means are the same as they were at the beginning of the war,’ Ihnat said.
Some air defense weaponry supplied by Western nations can only be used during daylight hours when targets are visible, he added.
Russia has been using the drones increasingly in recent weeks, with 24 destroyed by Ukraine between September 30 and October 6, their MoD claimed.
Ukrainians who have witnessed attacks by the drones say they make a recognisable noise, and have described them as sounding like ‘motorbikes’ in the air, while some soldiers have taken to calling it ‘the flying lawnmower’.
While the drones can be devastating to their targets, soldiers have said they are vulnerable to small arms fire.
The General Staff of the Armed forces of Ukraine released a video showing a smoking wreckage that it claimed to be one of the drones. The post said it had been shot down by a machine gun.
‘This is a primitive handmade product,’ Yuriy Ignat, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Air Force, told Radio Free Europe (RFE) last week.
‘It’s not a high-tech conveyor-belt production like the [Turkish-made] Bayraktar or American and Israeli [unmanned aerial vehicles],’ he added.
A security officer uses his rifle to try and take down a suicide drone attacking the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv early on Monday
A police officer fires his rifle into the air as he tries to take down a suicide drone attacking Kyiv early on Monday as Russia keeps up its attack on Ukraine’s vital infrastructure
Firefighters extinguish a blaze started by an Iranian-made suicide drone which hit Kyiv on Monday, as Russian forces change tactics to bring death back to the streets of the capital after weeks of calm
Ukrainian residents described the drone attacks to RFE. ‘You can hear the roar. First, I just hear them, but then I saw one fly by and then explode,’ one man said.
Another said: ‘There was a buzz that woke me up. I remember thinking: ‘What’s that?’ The sound was approaching and then there was an explosion near the house.’
According to reports, the first recorded use of the drones was in Yemen in Houthi-controlled areas. Now, Iran is reported to have sold hundreds of the drones to Russia.
The almost 12-foot long Shahed 136 is designed with a delta-wing shape, with stabilising rudders at the top of the aircraft.
The fuselage is at the centre of the drone and blended into the almost 4ft wings, giving it an elegant-looking shape.
Smoke billows from the ruins of a building in Kyiv destroyed by a suicide drone after the city was attacked early on Monday, as Russian forces continue to target the Ukrainian capital
Pictured: The Iranian drone has been in service since 2021 and weighs 440lbs. On top of that it is 12ft long and 8ft wide
The explosives are contained in the nose of the drone, as well as the technology that guides it to its targets for a precision strike.
The engine, meanwhile, is found at the rear of the drone, and drives two bladed propellers.
It has been compared to an engine one would find on a lawnmower or a moped.
‘Its motor sounds like a [motorbike]. You can spot it when it’s a few kilometres away,’ a Ukrainian soldier named only as Magyar told RFE.
‘That’s my advice to the military. They fly low and are slow, so you can shoot them down,’ he said, noting the drones are usually used against larger targets. ‘They carry such a load of explosives that it doesn’t make sense to use them against infantry.’
Overall, the drone weighs 440lbs, and can fly at speeds of almost 120mph.
In order to overwhelm air defences, several of the drones (batches of five and above) are launched at once from the same rack. They are fired almost horizontally with rocket-launch assistance.
The rocket is jettisoned on take-off, with the engine taking over once it is airborne.