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Russia launches fresh wave of drones against Ukraine

AeroVironment Switchblade-600. (AeroVironment Inc./TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Russia launched another wave of Iranian-made drones on Kyiv and its surroundings, but Ukraine’s air defenses shot down almost all of them and there were no immediate reports of casualties, the military said on March 27, as heavy fighting continued in and around Bakhmut in the eastern region of Donetsk.

An air-raid alert initially declared late on March 27 in the regions of Kyiv, Chernihiv, Sumy, Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhya, and Luhansk was later extended to the regions of Kherson, Zhytomyr, and Kirovohrad.

“Russian forces used 15 Shahed-136 attack drones to launch air strikes on Ukraine, and 14 of them were destroyed by the Ukrainian military,” the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in its daily bulletin.

“The probability of launching further missile and air strikes remains high throughout the territory of Ukraine,” the General Staff cautioned.

Serhiy Popko, the head of the Kyiv City Military Administration, reported that 12 drones were shot down overnight near the Ukrainian capital.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko reported explosions in the Obolon and Svyatoshyn districts of the capital. A fire engulfed a shop in the Svyatoshyn district but it was rapidly contained and no victims were reported, Klitschko said. The fire was apparently triggered by falling debris from a downed drone.

In the east, the General Staff said that fighting raged on several fronts in the Donetsk region, where Ukrainian forces repelled 62 attacks over the past 24 hours. Russian forces continued to launch assault after assault on Bakhmut, the ruined mining city that has become the epicenter of Moscow’s offensive.

Lately, the Russian military has also stepped up the shelling of Maryinka and Avdiyivka, two Ukrainian-controlled towns on the outskirts of the city of Donetsk that has been under the control of Moscow-backed forces since 2014.

In Avdiyivka, Russian shelling has shut down all public services and municipal workers have been evacuated. Only about2,000 civilians out of a prewar population of some 30,000 remain in the city.

Vitaliy Barabash, the chief of Avdiyivka’s military administration, has said continuous Russian bombardments have turned the town into “a place from postapocalyptic movies.”

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy made a surprise visit on March 27 to frontline positions in the region of Zaporizhzhya, where he also met with UN nuclear watchdog chief Rafael Grossi to discuss the protection of Europe’s largest nuclear power station.

Zelenskiy told the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it was not possible to restore safety at the plant with Russia still in control of the facility.

“Without the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops and personnel from the Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant and adjacent territory, any initiatives to restore nuclear safety and security are doomed to failure,” Zelenskiy told Grossi, according to a statement from the president’s office.

He also drew Grossi’s attention to the constant pressure that power plant personnel are under from Russian forces, the statement said.

“I met with Zelenskiy today in Zaporizhzhya City & had a rich exchange on the protection of the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant and its staff. I reiterated the full support of the IAEA to Ukraine’s nuclear facilities,” Grossi said on Twitter.

Zelenskiy’s office said in an earlier statement that the president had met with troops “in frontline positions” in the Zaporizhzhya region.

The latest fighting came as Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany has delivered 18 of the promised advanced Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine.