Falling debris killed at least two in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, but defending forces say they successfully shot down 15 out of 16 drones and all 28 Russian missiles.
Blasts were also heard in the southern Ukrainian port of Odesa, Cherkasy and Zhitomyr. Strikes hit Russia in six regions, prompting Moscow to warn that they would not go “unpunished”.
In Ukraine’s most successful attack, drones destroyed two heavy military Il-76 transport planes which burst into flames in Pskov, close to Russia’s northern border with Estonia and Latvia.
The attacks showed a sudden conflict escalation on both sides. In Kyiv, air raid sirens first began at around 2am, with loud booming heard over the capital hours later.
Kyiv’s authorities said Russia’s attack was the “most powerful strike” on the city since the spring. Of the two fatalities, Mayor Vitali Klitschko posted on Telegram that they were both men who had been working in a “non-residential building”.
There was no immediate word of casualties from the attacks on other Ukrainian cities. The attacks came as Russia was said to be redeploying up to 100,000 troops in the north-east of the country in a bid to regain the initiative.
However, the Kremlin was reeling from Ukraine’s drone attacks on its territory. The Pskov strike included a direct hit on a unit of the second brigade of the GRU military intelligence special forces.
According to pro-war Russian source Romanov Light, it was engulfed in a fire.Reports suggest up to 20 drones targeted Pskov.
A Russian emergencies ministry source said: “As a result of a drone attack, four Il-76 planes were damaged. A fire broke out. Two aircraft are engulfed in flames.”
The planes were being used to transport military equipment and troops to the war zone. The headquarters of the Russian Investigative Committee in Bryansk was also hit, reports say.
Windows were smashed in the building which is a key arm of Russian law enforcement. Also hit was one of Russia’s largest microelectronics enterprises, the Kremniy EL plant, reports say.
It is believed to supply Vladimir Putin’s military machine. Other drones hit the Druzhba oil depot, while two attacked the region’s main TV tower.
Ukraine never claims responsibility for such attacks on Russia. Military strategists suggest that the assaults, while directed from Kyiv, were likely to have been instigated from within the Russian mainland.
Reports suggest there have been over 160 suspected aerial drone attacks this year in Russia and on Ukrainian territory that the Kremlin claims.
Russia’s Tass news agency said that after the attacks, airspace above Vnukovo Airport in Moscow had been closed.
Yesterday, Russia’s military claimed its forces had destroyed four Ukraine boats carrying 50 men on the Black Sea. It is yet to be verified.