Putin Fires First Barrage of Nuclear-Capable Hypersonic Missiles

·3 min read

Russia unleashed a huge wave of missiles and rockets at targets across Ukraine Thursday, including a rare volley of unstoppable hypersonic missiles.

A top Ukrainian official told The Daily Beast that Russia fired 81 missiles, including Kinzhal hypersonic missiles.

“We all woke up in the middle of the night with the sound of air alerts,” said Tamila Tasheva, the Ukrainian official in charge of Crimea. “It seems that Russian leadership still has not realized that these kinds of matters of threatening do not work any longer against Ukrainian population.”

With Vladimir Putin’s invading forces failing to make any meaningful headway against Ukraine’s defenders on the ground in Donbas, the Kremlin chief ordered a wide range of Russia’s arsenal deployed in the first large-scale terror attack since mid-February.

The sheer volume of weapons deployed, including more than 80 missiles and eight Iranian exploding Shahed drones, suggested an attempt to overwhelm the Ukrainian air defenses, which have been boosted by recent contributions from allied governments. More than a dozen deaths were confirmed as rockets hit targets in and around the capital of Kyiv, and many other towns and cities including Kharkiv, Odesa, and Lviv in the west of the country.

The missiles also knocked out the power supply to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest, cutting it off from the Ukrainian grid, officials said, prompting a warning of potential catastrophe from the U.N. nuclear agency.

“The occupiers can only terrorize civilians. That’s all they can do,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a statement reported by Reuters. “But it won’t help them. They won’t avoid responsibility for everything they have done.”

How Putin Convinced the World That Evil Does Exist

The Ukrainian air force said the barrage included at least six hypersonic Kinzhal missiles, which can travel at five times the speed of sound. Russia has used the missile against individual targets during the year-long war, but it was the first time they had been used en masse in the regular pre-dawn attacks whose main purpose appears to be to undermine Ukrainian morale in the war.

The Ukrainian military has assessed that Russia is running out of these kinds of missiles, according to Tasheva. “I hear from our military that Russia doesn’t have many missiles left, especially… such expensive missiles as Kinzhal,” she said.

The latest barrage could be seen either as a warning from Moscow to the West that it has more sophisticated weapons at its disposal—the Kinzhal or “dagger” missiles can carry nuclear warheads—or a sign that it is simply running out of cheaper cruise missile options.

According to Valerii Zaluzhnyi, Ukraine’s top military commander, 34 cruise missiles were intercepted, as were four drones—which meant that the majority got through to their targets. Power was said to be cut off to half the residents of Kyiv, where thousands took shelter in chilly underground tunnels and the air raid sirens sounded for a full seven hours.

“I heard a very loud explosion, very loud. We quickly jumped out of bed and saw one car on fire. Then the other cars caught on fire as well. The glass shattered on the balconies and windows,” Liudmyla, a 58-year-old Kyiv resident holding a toddler in her arms, told Reuters. “How can they do this? How is this possible? They are not humans, I don’t know what to call them.”

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