Kyiv, Ukraine — Ukrainian authorities tried to allay public fears over Russia’s use of Iranian drones by claiming growing success in downing them on Monday, while the Kremlin’s talk of a possible ‘dirty bomb’ attack added another disturbing dimension as the war enters its ninth month.
Ukrainians are bracing for less electricity this winter following a sustained Russian barrage on their infrastructure in recent weeks. Citizens of the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv lined up for water and essential supplies on Monday as Ukrainian forces advanced towards the nearby Russian-occupied city of Kherson.
Ukrainian forces shot down more than two-thirds of some 330 Shahed drones that Russia fired on Saturday, Ukraine’s intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov said Monday. Budanov said the Russian military has ordered around 1,700 drones of various types and is deploying a second batch of around 300 Shaheds.
“Terror with the use of ‘Shaheds’ can actually last a long time,” he said in the Ukrainska Pravda newspaper, adding: “Air defense is basically coping, 70% are shot down.”
Russia and Iran deny Iranian-made drones were used, but triangle-shaped Shahed-136s have swooped down on civilians in Kyiv and elsewhere.
“First of all, we have to be able to counter drones,” Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi said Monday during a press conference in Zagreb with the Croatian leader. “It’s a dangerous technology and it needs to be stopped.”
The UK MoD said Russia would likely use large numbers of drones to try to penetrate Ukraine’s “increasingly effective air defences” – to replace Russian-made long-range precision weapons “which are becoming increasingly rare”.
The assessment came on top of a stern warning from Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to his British, French, Turkish and American counterparts over the weekend that Ukrainian forces were planning a “provocation” involving a radioactive device – a so-called dirty bomb. Britain, France and the United States dismissed this claim as “manifestly false”.
A dirty bomb uses explosives to disperse radioactive waste in an attempt to spread terror. Such weapons lack the devastating destruction of a nuclear explosion, but could expose large areas to radioactive contamination.
Russian authorities on Monday doubled Shoigu’s warning.
Lt. Gen. Igor Kirillov, head of the Russian military’s radiation, chemical and biological protection forces, said Russian military assets were very ready to deal with possible radioactive contamination. He told reporters that a dirty bomb attack could contaminate thousands of square miles.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday: “This is not an unfounded suspicion, we have serious reasons to believe that such things could be planned.”
Ukraine dismissed Moscow’s claims as an attempt to distract from its own plans to detonate a dirty bomb. German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht on Monday called “outrageous” the Russian claim that Ukraine could use a dirty bomb.
The White House again stressed on Monday that the Russian allegations were false.
“That’s just not true. We know that’s not true,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said. “In the past, Russians have, on occasion, blamed others for things they planned to do.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hinted that Moscow was itself preparing the ground for the deployment of a radioactive device on Ukrainian soil.
On the battlefield on Monday, his office said at least six civilians had been killed and five others injured by Russian shelling of several Ukrainian regions in the past 24 hours, including Mykolaiv – where energy facilities were targeted – and the town of Bakhmut in eastern Donetsk. Region.
Later in the day, the Ukrainian army announced that it had “pushed the enemy out” of three villages in the eastern region of Lugansk and one in Donetsk. Moscow did not immediately comment on this claim.
Russian authorities said Ukrainian troops fired rockets at the main Kakhovka hydroelectric power station in the Kherson region. Vladimir Rogov, a senior official in the Russian-installed administration in neighboring Zaporizhzhia region, said the plant had not suffered serious damage and was continuing to operate.
Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of plotting to blow up the factory dam to flood the area as Ukrainian forces launched an offensive on Kherson, which was captured by Russian troops early of the war.
Russian officials also accused Ukrainian forces of bombing a car with three civilians in the Kherson area, killing one.
Ukraine’s relentless artillery strikes on Kherson have cut off key crossing points on the Dnieper River, which bisects southern Ukraine, and left Russian troops on the west bank short of supplies and vulnerable to the encirclement. The region is one of four that Russian President Vladimir Putin illegally annexed last month and brought under Russian martial law last week.
Budanov, Ukraine’s intelligence chief, played down speculation that Russian forces were preparing an immediate exit from Kherson.
As Russian forces helped evacuate tens of thousands of residents, “at the same time they are bringing in new military units and preparing the streets of the city for defence,” he said.
Meanwhile, Russian authorities removed monuments to 18th-century Russian military leaders Alexander Suvorov and Fyodor Ushakov from Kherson to save them from Ukrainian bombardment.
On Saturday, Russian-installed authorities told all residents of Kherson to leave “immediately” ahead of an expected advance by Ukrainian troops seeking to retake the town, which lies on a key route to the Black Sea peninsula occupied by Russia in Crimea.
A poll released by the International Institute of Sociology in Kyiv on Monday showed that 86% of Ukrainians polled agreed that Ukraine’s armed struggle with Russia should continue. Some 10% think that negotiations should be started with Russia even if Ukraine has to make concessions. The telephone survey of 1,000 adults across Ukraine was conducted from Friday to Sunday, he said.
Residents of Mykolaiv, northwest of Kherson, echoed the determination to keep fighting – even as their town comes under bombardment almost every night and residents have to queue during the day for food. food and water.
“Ukraine is doing the right thing. The Russians attacked us, and they must be beaten for that,” said Mykola Kovalenko, 76, a resident of Mykolaiv.
In preparation for the coming winter, Kyiv and seven other Ukrainian regions forecast power outages on Monday as authorities worked to repair damage to energy facilities caused by targeted Russian bombardment. Zelenskyy called on local authorities to ensure Ukrainians heed the call to save energy.
“Now is definitely not the time for window displays and illuminated signs,” he said.
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