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Ukraine says it shot down 6 Russian balloons that appeared over Kyiv

Ukraine's Defense Minister, Oleksii Reznikov, poses with a reflector similar to the one the air force says it shot down from the balloons.
Ukraine Defense Ministry
Ukraine's Defense Minister, Oleksii Reznikov, poses with a reflector similar to the one the air force says it shot down from the balloons.

KYIV, Ukraine — The Kyiv Military Administration says it shot down six Russian balloons that appeared over the Ukrainian capital during an air raid warning on Wednesday. Similar balloons had appeared in other parts of Ukraine on Sunday.

Yuriy Ihnat, a spokesman for Ukraine's air force, said that the balloons had plain metal triangles suspended with string below them, saying that was enough to appear like an incoming missile or drone on Ukrainian radars.

"Russia wants Ukraine to waste its ammunition on these balloons, which effectively cost them nothing at all," he said on national TV.

Military analysts have said Russia may be running low on missiles and drones to attack Ukraine. Meanwhile, each western-supplied air defense missile can cost as much as $4 million.

Ihnat said the Ukrainian air force would scramble fighter jets to take down further balloons, conserving resources at a time when Kyiv says it needs more rounds from NATO.

A former Ukrainian Naval commander, Andriy Ryzhenko, told Ukraine's TSN that Russian decoys are an effective bluff at a time when several Eastern European countries are worried about a Russian escalation this spring.

On Tuesday, Moldova briefly closed its airspace after reports of a possible Russian balloon floating into the country. A day earlier, Moldovan President Maia Sandu accused Moscow of plotting a military coup there.

While Ukrainian media pointed out similarities between these Russian balloons and China's spy balloons that have appeared over North America, no official has said the incidents are related.

However, Kyiv's Military Administration said some of the dirigibles might have also had surveillance equipment, a technology Russia has been known to deploy before, notably in Syria.

Russia has yet to comment on the balloons in Ukraine.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Julian Hayda