By Felix Hoske and Max Hunder
BILA TSERKVA/KYIV, Oct 5 (Reuters) – Dozens of firefighters rushed to douse blazes on Wednesday in a town near Ukraine’s capital Kyiv following multiple strikes caused by what local officials said were Iranian-made loitering munitions, often known as ‘kamikaze drones’.
Six drones hit a building overnight in Bila Tserkva, around 75 km (45 miles) south of the capital, said the governor of the Kyiv region, Oleksiy Kuleba.
Ukraine has reported a spate of Russian attacks with Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones in the last three weeks, but the strike on Bila Tserkva was by far the closest to Kyiv.
Iran denies supplying the drones to Russia, while the Kremlin has not commented.
“There was a roaring noise, a piercing sound. I heard the first strike, the second I saw and heard. There was a roar and then ‘boom’ followed by an explosion,” said 80-year-old Volodymyr, who lives across the street from the stricken building.
Other residents told Reuters they heard four explosions in quick succession, followed by another two over an hour later.
Ukrainian forces appear to have been caught on the back foot by the drones, which Kyiv says Moscow started using on the battlefield in September.
Speaking on television on Wednesday, Ukrainian air force spokesman Yuriy Ihnat said the drones were launched from occupied areas in southern Ukraine, and that six further drones had been shot down before reaching their target.
“This is a new threat for all the defence forces (of Ukraine), and we need to use all available means to try to counter it,” Ihnat said, comparing the drone’s small size to an artillery shell.
The attacks left locals in Bila Tserkva shaken and seeking cover when subsequent air raid sirens sounded.
“It is beyond me what those Russians think. I do not know when we will manage to chase them from our territory. It is just tears and heartache for my Ukraine. That’s all I can say,” said 74-year-old Lyudmyla Rachevska.
(Reporting by Felix Hoske in Bila Tserkva and Max Hunder in Kyiv, writing by Max Hunder, Editing by Gareth Jones)