Russia Resumes Shahed Drone Blitz Hours After Leopard 2 Tank Announcement

Iranian-made "kamikaze drones" were among the barrage of missiles Russia launched toward Ukraine following a pledge from the West to supply Kyiv with modern main battle tanks (MBTs).

Explosions shook Kyiv and sirens sounded across Ukraine on Thursday morning, during a mass missile attack that followed the commitment by Germany and the U.S. to send Leopard 2 and M1 Abrams tanks.

Kyiv's mayor, Vitali Klitschko, wrote on Telegram that one person had died and two were wounded after a rocket hit a non-residential building in the Holosiivskyi district of the Ukrainian capital.

Ukrainian authorities said they were expecting over 30 missiles and that at least 15 missiles were downed. There were also strikes reported on two energy facilities in the southern region of Odesa.

Ukrainian soldier with MANPAD
A Ukrainian soldier with a U.S. made Stinger MANPAD (man-portable air-defense system) on December 29, 2022, in Bakhmut, Ukraine. Ukraine's forces use MANPADs to shoot down Shahed kamikaze drones. Pierre Crom/Getty Images

Among the rockets fired were the Kinzhal, Kalibr and Kh59 missiles fired from aircraft and ships on the Black Sea, Ukrainian General Valery Zaluzhny said on his Telegram channel. He said that Ukrainian air defenses had shot down 47 out of the 55 missiles Russia had launched.

Earlier, Ukraine's armed forces said that Russia had fired 24 Shahed drones, the Iranian-made loitering munitions that have swarmed Ukraine's skies in recent months, delivering strikes to civilian and energy infrastructure.

"All of them were destroyed by anti-aircraft missile units, fighter aircraft and mobile groups of the Ukrainian Air Force," the armed forces said in a statement, according to a translation.

"Most kamikaze drones were destroyed in the center of the country in the area the Air Command Center was responsible for," the update posted on Facebook added, without further specifying the location. Newsweek has contacted the Russian defense ministry for comment.

The attacks followed announcements that Germany and the U.S. will provide tanks to Ukraine, paving the way for other European countries to follow suit. On Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov condemned the move as "direct involvement" of NATO countries in the conflict, Tass reported.

Following Russian gains near Bakhmut and nearby Soledar in the Donetsk oblast, the tanks are seen as important to defend Ukraine's positions in those locations with fewer casualties, according to former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst.

"On the flat terrain in Ukraine's east and south, they could spearhead the counteroffensive," he said in comments emailed to Newsweek by the Atlantic Council, where he is senior director of the Eurasia Center.

However, the public squabble over whether to send the tanks had exposed divisions in the West amid concerns at how Russia might respond and whether it would lead to the escalation that the U.S. has been seeking to avoid.

"U.S. and NATO tanks will not serve as wonder weapons to win the war for Ukraine," said Matthew Hoh, a former United States Marine Corp. (USMC) captain and State Department officer who has called for de-escalation and negotiations to end the war.

"Rather we should expect a reciprocal escalation by Russia that solidifies the stalemate and threatens expansion of the war," he told Newsweek.