In the early morning of March 9, 2023, Russia launched its largest missile strike on Ukraine in recent months.
According to the Ukrainian Air Force (UAF), 81 missiles and eight Shahed kamikaze drones were launched during the attack.
Many of the launches involved Kh-101/Kh-555 and Kalibr cruise missiles, launched by Tu-95 and Tu-22M3 bombers from Russian territory, the UAF has claimed.
Six Kh-47 Kinzhal hypersonic missiles were also launched, using MiG-31 heavy interceptors, the UAF added.
Various other types of air-launched guided missiles were also used in the attack, including S-300 air defense missiles, frequently used by Russia to strike ground targets.
34 missiles and four drones were intercepted, the UAF claimed, which marks a record-low level of interceptions compared to previous attacks.
According to Ukrainian news service Interfax, an infrastructure facility in Kyiv was targeted by Kinzhal missiles. While the type and extent of the damage caused has not yet been reported, the mayor of Kyiv Vitali Klitschko said that two people had been injured in the blast.
The bulk of the attack targeted cities in Southern and Eastern parts of Ukraine. According to Ukrainian news website Hromadske, various energy infrastructure objects, such as powerplants, have been hit in Kharkiv, Kherson, Odesa, Zhitomyr and other regions, with some of the missiles hitting residential houses.
The Western Ukrainian region of Lviv was also struck during the attack, with the head of the Lviv Regional Military Administration, Maksym Kozytskyi, stating that both energy infrastructure and residential houses had been hit.
In one instance, five people were killed by a missile which struck a house in the Zolochiv district.
According to Liveuamap.com, electricity blackouts were reported in all major cities across the country. In Kyiv, approximately 40% of the city remained without electricity on the morning of March 9, according to Klitschko.
This is the largest Russian missile attack on Ukraine in months. The most recent attacks, conducted in January and February 2023, typically consisted of between 60-70 missiles.
However, the March 9 attack involved a much larger number of rarer and older missiles, with only 20 Kalibr cruise missiles launched alongside 28 older Kh-101s or Kh555s.
Much lighter short-range Kh-31 and Kh-59 missiles were also launched, the UAF claims, and a relatively large number of S-300s, which are air defense missiles repurposed for ground strikes.
“The attack is very large-scale, and the first one with such types of missiles. As we can see, six Kinzhals at once. I don’t remember anything like that happening before,” UAF spokesperson Yurii Ignat said during a televised address, according to Interfax.
Previous missile attacks, which Russia began to launch regularly in autumn 2022, sparked discussions about increased deliveries of advanced air defenses to Ukraine.
A large variety of different systems have been pledged by NATO countries, with some being delivered in recent months.
A number of systems possibly capable of protecting Ukrainian targets from ballistic and other high-performance missiles have also been pledged.
Ukrainian personnel started training on one such system – the US-made Patriot – in January 2023.