In first, Kyiv says shot down volley of Russian ‘hypersonic’ missiles
KYIV — Ukraine said on Tuesday it had shot down six Russian Kinzhal missiles in a single night, thwarting a weapon Moscow has touted as a next-generation hypersonic missile that was all but unstoppable.
When asked about the Ukrainian claim, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu dismissed it, the RIA news agency reported. His ministry said a Kinzhal had destroyed a U.S.-built Patriot surface-to-air missile defense system.
“A high-precision strike by the hypersonic Kinzhal missile hit a U.S.-made Patriot anti-aircraft missile system in the city of Kyiv,” the defense ministry said in a statement.
Two U.S. officials said a Patriot system likely suffered some damage but had not been destroyed, and one said discussions on repairing it were underway and it did not appear the system would have to be removed from Ukraine.
The commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, had said earlier that his forces had intercepted the six Kinzhals launched from aircraft, as well as nine Kalibr cruise missiles from ships in the Black Sea and three Iskanders fired from land.
Russia’s Shoigu was quoted as saying the number of claimed Ukrainian missile intercepts in general is “three times greater than the number we launch”.
“And they get the type of missiles wrong all the time. That’s why they don’t hit them,” he said, without elaborating.
It was the first time Ukraine had claimed to have struck an entire volley of multiple Kinzhal missiles, and if confirmed, would be a demonstration of the effectiveness of its newly deployed Western air defenses.
The United States and the European Union have supplied Ukraine with weaponry to defend itself since Russia invaded in February 2022.
EU and NATO member Hungary has refused, however, to provide any military equipment to neighbor Ukraine, and on Tuesday, the government said it had blocked the next tranche of the EU’s off-budget military support known as the European Peace Facility.
Air raid sirens blared across nearly all of Ukraine early on Tuesday and were heard over the Ukrainian capital and the surrounding region for more than three hours.
“A year ago, we were not able to shoot down most of the terrorists’ missiles, especially ballistic ones,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an address to the Council of Europe rights body in Iceland by video link.
“And I am asking one thing now. If we are able to do this, is there anything we can’t do?”
The meeting of European leaders over two days was to focus on ways to hold Russia to account for its war, officials said.
Russia says its invasion was necessary to counter threats to its security posed by Ukraine’s growing ties to the West.
Ukraine and its allies call it an unprovoked war of conquest and Ukraine says it won’t stop fighting until all Russian forces leave its land.
Flashes of light and debris
The six Kinzhals were among 27 missiles Russia fired at Ukraine over 24 hours, Ukraine’s military said in its evening update on Tuesday, lighting up Kyiv with flashes and raining debris after they were blasted from the sky.
It was unclear which Western weapon Ukraine used to defend against the Kinzhals. The Pentagon had no immediate comment.
For its part, Russia’s defense ministry said its forces delivered a concentrated strike with long-range air- and sea-based high-precision weapons at Ukrainian forces, “as well as at places of storage of ammunition, weapons and military equipment delivered from Western countries”.
Kyiv authorities said three people were wounded by falling debris.
“It was exceptional in its density – the maximum number of attack missiles in the shortest period of time,” Serhiy Popko, head of the city military administration, said on Telegram.
Ukraine’s military said two S-300 missiles had also targeted infrastructure in Kostyantynivka, west of the embattled eastern city of Bakhmut.
This month, Ukraine said it had shot down a single Kinzhal missile over Kyiv for the first time using a newly deployed Patriot system.
The U.S. military confirmed that but did not say whether the Russian missile was flying at hypersonic speed at the time.
The U.S.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) says the Kinzhal rapidly accelerates to Mach 4 (4,900 km/h) after launch and may reach speeds of up to Mach 10 – or 10 times the speed of sound. Hypersonic weapons travel at least five times the speed of sound.
The Kinzhal missile, the name means dagger, can carry conventional or nuclear warheads up to 2,000 km. Russia used the weapon in war for the first time in Ukraine last year and has only acknowledged firing them on a few occasions.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has frequently touted the Kinzhal as proof of world-beating Russian hardware, capable of taking on NATO.
With Ukraine set to go on the offensive against Russia’s invasion for the first time in six months, Russian forces are launching longer-range air strikes at the highest frequency of the war.
Ukraine says it is shooting down most missiles and drones.