Ukraine shoots down six Kinzhal hypersonic missiles in night attack

Ukraine said Tuesday it shot down six Russian Kinzhal hypersonic missiles in a night attack, a type of weapon that is difficult to intercept, hours before an expected visit by a Chinese envoy.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov tweeted, “A new incredible achievement for the Ukrainian Air Force! Last night, the defenders of our skies shot down six Russian hypersonic Kinzhal missiles and 12 other missiles.”

Kinzhal (“Dagger” in Russian) missiles are one of the weapons called “invincible” by Russian President Vladimir Putin, as their speed allows them to challenge most air defense systems.

During the night, AFP reporters witnessed Ukrainian anti-aircraft defense in Kiev in action as it lit up the night sky to deflect Russian missiles targeting the capital.

Ukraine first announced it had shot down a Russian Kinzhal missile in early May, thanks to the powerful American Patriot anti-aircraft system, delivered to Kiev in April.

According to Ukrainian Chief of Staff Valery Zaluzny, Russia attacked Ukraine “from the north, south and east” with Kinzhals, Kalibr cruise missiles, S-400 anti-aircraft and Iskander ballistic missiles, but also Iranian-made drones.

“All is destroyed!”, he greeted on the telegram.

The Kiev military administration said, “It was exceptional in its density, the maximum number of missiles in a very short time frame.”

Three people were wounded in the attack, according to the capital’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, hours before Chinese envoy Li Hui was expected to arrive in Kiev for a two-day visit.

Ukraine’s attack near Bakhmut (AFP)

Special Representative for Eurasian Affairs Li Hui, former Chinese ambassador to Moscow, is to discuss a “political solution” to the Ukrainian conflict. He should also visit Poland, France, Germany and Russia.

Russia’s close ally China has never publicly condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He offered a 12-point plan to end the war, which was viewed with suspicion by Westerners.

– ‘New and powerful weapons’ –

The attack also came the day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky returned to Kiev after a European tour that took him to Italy, Germany, France and the United Kingdom.

“(…) back home with new and powerful weapons for the front,” Zelensky said in a video message after securing new weapons and a pledge of European aid.

The tour came as the Ukrainian military claimed the “first success” of its offensive on the flanks of Bakhmut, the epicenter of months-long fighting in eastern Ukraine, now more than 90% controlled by Russian forces.

But the time for a large-scale retaliatory strike has not yet come, with Volodymyr Zelensky restraining himself, saying Kiev “needs more time”, as British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak welcomed him near London.

The United Kingdom has promised to provide Kiev with anti-aircraft missiles and long-range attack drones. These will be added to the Storm Shadow cruise missiles, which the Russian military claimed to have shot down earlier on Monday.

Mr Zelensky also said he was “very optimistic” about the possible delivery of the fighters, which several European countries have so far refused to provide.

French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Monday evening that he had “opened the door to train” Ukrainian pilots “along with many other European countries that are ready”. On the other hand, he declined to mention the delivery of fighters to Kiev at this stage other than as a matter of “principled debate”.

On the diplomatic front, the 46 member states of the Council of Europe meet in Iceland on Tuesday afternoon for a summit to show their unity against Moscow.

The meeting, only the fourth for the pan-European organization in its nearly 75 years of existence, aims to multiply the means of holding Russia criminally accountable for the destruction and crimes caused by its invasion of Ukraine.

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