As dawn broke on May 29, 2023, Kyiv Day – a day celebrating 1,541 years of this historic city – was interrupted by a startling wake-up call. An unprecedented 59 Iranian-made “kamikaze” drones, launched by Russia, rained down on Ukraine’s capital, marking a grim first in the history of May and the 14th similar assault within the month.

A Swift Response Amid Tragic Loss

The Ukrainian military responded swiftly, grounding 58 of the 59 launched drones. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy confirmed the elimination of all drones threatening the capital. Tragically, however, there were casualties, including a 41-year-old man killed by falling debris, and several injuries were reported by Kyiv’s Mayor Vitali Klitschko.

The drone strike was widespread, reaching Kyiv’s historical Pecherskyi district and other key military and infrastructure sites across central Ukraine. Yet, in the face of international outcry, Moscow’s silence, notably from France denouncing the attack as a blatant breach of international humanitarian law, added an eerie note to the unfolding drama.

Kyiv’s Spirit Undeterred

In defiance of this pre-dawn horror, the spirit of Kyiv’s people shone through as they filled the streets, celebrating their city’s founding day with music, food, and crafts. Amid the festivities, President Zelenskiy praised the people’s resilience, declaring, “Strength is in people, it is in cities, it is in life, and when life, people, and the most important cities for culture are despised, Russia will only face defeat.”

Their defiance was not confined to celebrations. Witnesses reported residents shouting insults at Russia’s President Vladimir Putin from their balconies during the air raid alerts, cheering for their air defense forces. The Ukrainian Air Force retaliated quickly, deploying fighter aircraft and mobile air defense systems to fend off the drone attacks.