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Russia hits Ukraine with barrage of drones ahead of Victory Day

Shelling set buildings ablaze in Odesa, southern Ukraine, in the early hours of May 8, 2023.

Russia has launched dozens of missiles and drones towards Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, and other cities, in a wave of attacks on the eve of Victory Day celebrations.

According to Kiev's mayor, Moscow had fired 60 drones at Ukrainian targets, including 36 at the capital, claiming that all of them had been shot down. He said debris hit apartments and other buildings, injuring at least five people in the capital.

In Kiev, explosions could be heard through the night. Three people were injured in blasts in the Solomyanskyi district and two when drone wreckage fell in the Sviatoshyn district, both west of the capital's center, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said.

The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces also said, “Unfortunately, there are dead and wounded civilians, high-rise buildings, private homes and other civilian infrastructure were damaged.” 

The attack came as Russia prepares for Tuesday's Victory Day parade, the day which marks the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany. 

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, however, marked Victory Day on Monday rather than Tuesday, announcing that he had signed a decree to change the date of the holiday in line with the practice of Western allies. "Recalling the heroism of millions of Ukrainians in that war against Nazism, we see the same heroism in the actions of our soldiers today," Zelensky said in an address to the nation.

Russia said by changing the date, Zelensky betrayed the memory of Ukrainians who fought the Nazis.

"What is worse than an enemy? A traitor. That is Zelenskiy, the embodiment of Judas in the 21st century," said Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.

On the day of Russia's parade, Zelensky will receive European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, according to the European Union (EU).

Russia repels Ukraine drone attacks

Russia said it had shot down Ukrainian drones attacking the Crimea peninsula on Sunday. 

The Russian administration in Crimea said it had repelled a night attack by a dozen Ukrainian drones.

The unmanned aerial vehicles were launched on the port city of Sevastopol, the capital of the peninsula and home to Russia's Black Sea fleet. 

Moscow said the drones were neutralized by anti-aircraft defenses and electronic jamming. "No infrastructure in the city was damaged," said Mikhail Razvojayev, the city governor.

Meanwhile, concerns grew on Sunday over Europe's largest nuclear power plant after local authorities ordered civilians living nearby to evacuate.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has spent months trying to persuade Russian and Ukrainian officials to avert disaster at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, located in southeastern Ukraine. 

“The general situation in the area near the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant is becoming increasingly unpredictable and potentially dangerous,” IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi warned on Saturday. “We must act now to prevent the threat of a severe nuclear accident and its associated consequences for the population and the environment. This major nuclear facility must be protected.”

Moscow captured the nuclear facility soon after the start of the military campaign in Ukraine last year, but Ukrainian employees have continued to run it ever since.

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