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Russia Launches ‘Biggest Ever’ Shahed-136 Drone Attack On Kyiv; Ukraine Gets A Taste Of Winter Offensive

Ukrainian officials announced that Russia launched its biggest drone strike on the capital, Kyiv, on November 25 since the beginning of its invasion, in what appears to be yet another winter drone onslaught by the Russian forces.

Ukraine’s Air Force, in a Telegram post, said: “A total of nearly 75 Shahed drones were launched from two directions – Primorsko-Akhtarsk and the Kursk region, Russia. The primary target was the city of Kyiv.” The service described the attack as a “record number” of drones.

According to the report, the bulk of the Iranian-made drones were reportedly caught in the Kyiv region. However, 71 of the drones were captured by air defenses in six other regions of Ukraine. In addition, a Kh-59 guided missile was also destroyed in the Dnipropetrovsk region.

“Anti-aircraft missile troops, tactical aviation, mobile fire groups, and electronic warfare units were involved in repelling the air attack,” said the Air Force. A spokesman for the military administration of Kyiv, Mykhailo Shamanov, detailed many waves of drones approaching the capital from various angles.

Five individuals, including an 11-year-old girl, were hurt in the massive drone attack, Mayor Vitali Klitschko posted on the Telegram app. Additionally, structures in various parts of the city were damaged. He also noted in his post that pieces of a fallen drone had caused a fire in a children’s nursery. It was the fourth drone attack on Kyiv this month, according to Shamanov.

For Ukraine, November marks the onset of a harsh winter ahead, starting with a bang. A flurry of drone strikes by the Russian military devastated Ukraine’s vital infrastructure overnight on November 3. At the time, Ukrainian officials noted that 40 Shahed drones and one X-59 aircraft missile were used to strike several locations, including Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson, and Lviv.

The attack’s goal was not immediately apparent. Still, Russia has threatened to launch another aerial campaign in an attempt to damage Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, much as it did the previous winter, as Ukraine has warned in recent weeks.

The attack caused roughly 200 buildings in the city, including 77 residential ones, to lose power, according to the Ukrainian energy ministry. “It looks like tonight we heard the overture. The prelude to the winter season,” Serhiy Fursa, a prominent Ukrainian economist, wrote on Facebook.

Moreover, with Russia making coordinated efforts to increase the production of suicide drones at home, there is a concern in Ukraine that another drone onslaught awaits it this winter. Satellite imagery published earlier this month revealed that work is progressing on a plant in Russia that will mass-produce Iranian-designed kamikaze drones.

“With winter fast approaching…Russia can be expected to accelerate its Shahed-136 attacks against Ukraine’s vital energy infrastructure, causing brutal living conditions for the civilian population,” said a report published by the Institute for Science and International Security.

On its part, Ukraine has been pleading with NATO partners to provide the country with more air defenses to avert the repeat of last winter when the entire country grappled with power cuts as Moscow continued to attack Ukrainian energy infrastructure. To strengthen Ukraine’s defenses against Russian drone and missile threats, Germany and France are leading a new 20-nation coalition focused on ground-based air defense.

The situation this time may likely be worse given that Russia has been recently reported to be working on an array of unmanned platforms like the ‘Scalpel,’ which resembles its ZALA Lancet loitering munitions. The Ukrainian Air Force’s spokeswoman, Yuriy Ihnat, stated that a record number of Russian “suicide drone” assaults are anticipated this winter.

Russia’s Drone Onslaught Crippled Ukraine Last Winter

Drone strikes are predicted to target the nation’s electrical infrastructure once more, replicating Russian strategies from the previous winter that left millions of Ukrainians without electricity. This may be tougher given that updating the energy infrastructure is still a work in progress, and grid managers have been limiting the hot water supply and enforcing frequent rolling blackouts.

In an attempt to coerce Ukraine into giving up, Russia has been utilizing loitering weapons, also referred to as kamikaze drones, since late 2022 to overwhelm Ukrainian air defenses and assault civilian targets, particularly energy infrastructure.

The most famous of them all is perhaps the Iranian-made Shahed-136, which Russia utilized in conjunction with its drone, the Geran-2, to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The ISW had claimed last year that the loss of Russia’s high-precision weapons has made it increasingly dependent on weaponry produced in Iran. The cost of each drone is estimated to be between US$20,000 and US$50,000.

As previously reported by EurAsian Times, Yevgeny Silkin, a spokesman for the commander of the Joint Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine for Strategic Communications, stated that the plastic and other components used in the drones could not handle the freezing temperatures in Ukraine.

Shahed Drones Russia
Image for Representation

Experts have observed that the Shahed-136 drone is a reduced-scale variant of the Shahed-131 drone, which Iran used to launch an attack against Saudi Arabia. The specifics surrounding the development of the Shahed-131 and Shahed-136 drones are still unknown.

The anticipated range of the smaller Shahed-131 was between 700 and 1,000 kilometers, based on material in the public domain. Some analysts have estimated the 136 version’s range to be between 1,000 and 2,000 kilometers.

These drones are relatively easy to identify and shoot down because they are loud, slow-moving, and powered by propellers, but Ukraine took a while to figure it out. According to the Ukrainian military, it has shot down most of the drones that were launched against it. These drones were, however, tailored for Moscow to cause maximum damage to Ukrainian targets.

Since mid-October last year, Russia has begun attacking Ukraine using suicide drones similar to the Shahed model. But Iran didn’t first acknowledge providing Moscow with the deadly drones that detonate upon impact until November, even though the drones were shipped before the invasion began in February 2022.

Last October, Ukrenergo, Ukraine’s state power generator, declared that the drones were ruining the country’s energy infrastructure more quickly than the government could fix it. Since the infrastructure is not fully restored, another wave of Shahed attacks could be bad news for Ukraine. However, four Shahed attacks this month alone paint a grim picture.

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