KYIV: Russia attacked Ukrainian cities with drones on Monday, killing at least four people in an apartment building in downtown Kyiv during morning rush hour, and targeted infrastructure across the country in the second wave of air strikes in a week.

Ukrainian soldiers fired into the air trying to shoot down the drones after blasts rocked central Kyiv. An anti-aircraft rocket could be seen streaking into the morning sky, followed by an explosion and orange flames, as residents raced for shelter.

A pregnant woman was among four people killed in the attack on the residential building, Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said. Ukraine's Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskyi said there had been deaths in other cities but did not give a full toll.

Black smoke poured out of the windows of the Kyiv apartment building and emergency service workers toiled to douse flames.

"I have never been so afraid...It is murder, it is simply murder, there are no other words for it," said Vitalii Dushevskiy, 29, a food delivery courier who rents an apartment in the blasted building.

His flatmate, who gave his name only as Nazar, said they had tried to leave their flat only to find the staircase "all gone".

Nearby, Elena Mazur, 52, was searching for her mother, who had managed to call her to say she was buried under rubble.

"She is not picking up the phone," Mazur said, hoping she had been rescued and taken to hospital.

Ukraine said the attacks were carried out by Iran-made "suicide drones", which fly to their target and detonate. Russia's defence ministry said it had carried out a "massive" attack on military targets and energy infrastructure across Ukraine using high-precision weapons.

'Missiles on mondays'

"Terror must lose and will lose and Ukraine will prevail," President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Telegram. "And (it) will bring to justice every Russian terrorist - from commanders to privates who carried out criminal orders."

Reuters saw pieces of a drone used in the attack that bore the words: "For Belgorod" - an apparent reference to Ukrainian shelling of a Russian border region.

The strikes took place one week after Russia unleashed its heaviest aerial bombardment of Kyiv and other cities since the start of the war, also during morning rush hour.

"This is already a tradition: to wake Ukrainians with missiles on Mondays," said Alla Voloshko, a 47-year-old lawyer who took shelter in the basement of her apartment block.

Ukraine's military said it had destroyed 37 Russian drones since Sunday evening, or around 85% of those used in attacks.

Zelensky says Russian strikes ‘won’t be able to break’ Ukrainians

A drone attack hit the Everi marine terminal in the southern port city of Mykolaiv on Sunday night, officials said, damaging sunflower storage tanks and setting leaking oil aflame.

The new United Nations human rights chief, Volker Turk of Austria, said drone attacks on civilians must stop.

Russia denies targeting civilians in what it calls its special military operation in Ukraine, launched on Feb. 24 and developing into the biggest annexation of territory in Europe since World War Two.

Iran repeated on Monday its denial that it is supplying the drones to Russia. The Kremlin has not commented.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on Twitter: "Iran is responsible for the murders of Ukrainians. Country that oppresses its own people is now giving ru-monsters (Russians) weapons for mass murders in the heart of Europe."

Several EU foreign ministers on Monday called for sanctions against Iran over the transfer of drones to Russia.

Prisoner swap

A Russian fighter plane crashed into a residential building in the southern Russian city of Yeysk on Monday, engulfing apartments in flames, the regional governor said. TASS said the crash was caused by an engine fire. RIA news agency said the plane crashed during a training flight.

Russia's state Investigative Committee, which deals with serious crimes, said it had opened a criminal case. There were no immediate details on casualties on the ground.

To the north of Ukraine, close Russian ally Belarus said it would conduct live fire exercises and anti-aircraft guided missile launches with Russian forces, Interfax reported.

Belarus said on Sunday just under 9,000 Russian troops would be stationed on its territory as part of a "regional grouping" of forces to protect its borders.

Elsewhere, Russian shelling near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Europe's largest, caused it to be disconnected again from Ukraine's power grid, Ukrainian state energy firm Energoatom said. It was soon connected to a backup system.

The plant, which has often been shelled during the war, is occupied by Russian forces but operated by Ukrainian staff. Its reactors have been shut down for weeks, but they need power to keep the fuel inside cool and prevent a meltdown.

Russia has long blamed Kyiv for shelling at the plant.

British military intelligence said Russia was facing more acute logistical problems in southern Ukraine after a blast on Oct. 8 caused damage to Russia's road-and-rail bridge to Crimea, the peninsula seized by Moscow in 2014.

Russia's defence ministry said on Monday its forces had thwarted a Ukrainian attempt to breach their defences in the southern Kherson region.

Ukrainian forces, helped by Western arms, have clawed back territory in Kherson region - strategically vital as it links Crimea to the rest of Ukraine - and in parts of the northeast in a major counter-offensive over the past two months.

Denis Pushilin, the Moscow-backed head of the Donetsk region - one of four regions of Ukraine which Russia unilaterally proclaimed as its own territory last month - said 110 Ukrainians, mostly women, would be freed on Monday in turn for the release of 80 Russians he said were "civilian sailors" and 30 military personnel.

Zelenskiy's head of staff, Andriy Yermak, later said 108 women, including officers, sergeants and privates, had been freed. "Especially emotional and really special," he said on Telegram.

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