Ukrainian air defences shot down a Russian hypersonic missile for the first time during an attack on the capital Kyiv, the air force said on Saturday, in a potentially major setback for the Kremlin’s campaign of long-range air strikes.
The Kinzhal, which means “dagger” in Russian, is one of six “next generation” weapons unveiled by president Vladimir Putin in 2018 when the Russian leader boasted that it could not be shot down by any of the world’s air defence systems.
Ukraine’s announcement on Saturday came hours before a prominent Russian nationalist writer, Zakhar Prilepin, was wounded in a car bombing in the region of Nizhny Novgorod, about 250 miles east of Moscow, according to Russian state news agency Tass. Mr Prilepin’s driver was killed in the explosion, according to emergency officials. Russia immediately blamed the bombing on Ukraine and the West, with a foreign ministry spokeswoman accusing the US and Nato of supporting “an international terrorist cell”. It is the third explosion involving prominent pro-Kremlin figures since the start of the war in Ukraine.
Ukrainian air force commander Mykola Oleshchuk said the Kh-47 Kinzhal was been shot down on Thursday night over the region outside Kyiv, using the US Patriot air defence system.
“I congratulate the Ukrainian people on the historic event. Yes, we shot down the 'unparalleled' Kinzhal,” he said on the Telegram app.
The US Patriot system is one of an array of sophisticated air defence units supplied by the West to help Ukraine repel a months-long Russian campaign of air strikes that has targeted critical infrastructure, power facilities and other sites. Hundreds of civilians have been killed in the attacks that Russia stepped up in October in advance of winter. The strikes failed to cripple the power grid but caused sweeping power cuts and other outages. Russia denies targeting civilians.
Russia, which did not immediately comment on Ukraine’s statement about the Kinzhal, has in the past boasted that the missile has no equivalent in the West. The air-launched ballistic missile, which can reach speeds of up to Mach 10 (12,350kmh), is capable of carrying nuclear or conventional warheads. It has a reported range of 1,500 to 2,000km. Ukraine said the missile was fired during a drone attack on Kyiv and other cities in the early hours of Thursday.
The Thursday air strike came less than a day after Russia accused Ukraine of a failed attempt to assassinate Mr Putin in a drone attack on the Kremlin citadel in Moscow and threatened to retaliate.
Moscow has since accused Washington of involvement in allegations denied by both Ukraine and the United States.
In reference to the alleged car bombing in which Prilepin was wounded, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on Telegram in Saturday: “The fact has come true: Washington and Nato fed another international terrorist cell – the Kyiv regime.”
She said it was the “direct responsibility of the US and Britain”, but provided no evidence to support the accusation. “We pray for Zakhar,” she said.
Two leading pro-war Russian propagandists have been killed in bombings since Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year.
Elsewhere, Switzerland’s parliament has approved a request from Ukrainian authorities for Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy to address it.
The invitation, announced in a statement late on Friday, comes amid pressure on Switzerland’s government to break with a centuries-old tradition of neutrality and end a ban of exports of Swiss weapons to conflict zones such as Ukraine.
So far, the government has refused to change this policy.
The subject of Zelenskiy’s address, which will the first by video by a foreign leader to the legislature, is unknown. It is scheduled for the summer session beginning on May 30th.
During that session, lawmakers are also set to weigh a motion to provide €5 billion of support to Ukraine over five-10 years. - Reuters
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