Russia unleashed dozens of attack drones across Ukraine before dawn on Tuesday, targeting the cities of Kyiv and Lviv, far from the front lines where Ukraine’s counteroffensive made small gains and Russian forces tried to seize more territory in eastern Ukraine.
Moscow’s military also fired on rescue workers in the flood-stricken city of Kherson on Tuesday, Ukrainian officials said, killing one person and injuring eight others while they were responding to the catastrophic effects of the destruction of the Kakhovka dam this month.
The Interior Ministry of Ukraine said in a statement that unarmed State Emergency Service workers in Kherson had come under “heavy shelling.” Calling the workers heroes, it said that “killing rescuers” during one of the country’s largest man-made disasters was “a manifestation of fear.”
The drone attack on Kyiv, the capital, was the first in more than two weeks. Russian forces repeatedly targeted the city throughout May, but recently there had been a relative lull — with the notable exception of missile barrage fired at Kyiv last week while a delegation of African leaders visited to discuss a path to peace talks.
Air-raid alerts sounded in Kyiv shortly before 3 a.m. local time on Tuesday and the authorities warned civilians to take shelter. The alerts lasted for more than three hours as the drones came in waves and from various directions, said Serhiy Popko, the head of the city’s military administration.
“Another massive air attack on the capital,” he posted on the Telegram messaging app.
Ukraine’s Air Force said Russian forces had launched 35 Iranian-made drones at targets, with the region around Kyiv “the main area of attack.” Air defenses had shot down 32 of the drones, it said, including more than two dozen near the capital.
The Air Force did not elaborate on what or where the three remaining drones hit, but the air defenses in and around Kyiv are much more robust than those protecting the rest of the country.
Lviv, in western Ukraine near the Polish border, had long been considered a relative haven from attacks occurring closer to Russian-held territory. But the mayor, Andriy Sadovyi, reported explosions in and near the city around 5 a.m. and urged residents to seek shelter. The authorities said that critical infrastructure had been struck, sparking a fire, but did not elaborate. There were no injuries, according to the regional military administrator.
The shelling that killed the emergency worker was part of dozens of Russian strikes on the southern Kherson region over the previous day. A total of 57 strikes — from mortars, artillery, tanks and rockets — hit the region on Monday, the regional military administration said in a statement, adding that an ambulance crew had also come under fire and five people had been injured.
The bombardment of Kherson, which Russian soldiers occupied for several months last year, has not let up since an explosion two weeks ago destroyed the Kakhovka dam on the Dnipro River, sending torrents of floodwaters into residential areas.
Emergency workers have struggled under artillery fire to evacuate thousands of people from submerged homes. And the fighting in the region has created hurdles to delivering help, aid workers say.
Even as the waters have receded, the consequences of the disaster have spread. Pollutants and pathogens moving downstream on the Dnipro and into the Black Sea have prompted the Ukrainian health authorities to warn about waterborne disease.
Andriy Yermak, the head of the office of President Volodymyr Zelensky, said on Telegram that the Russian Army had fired at recovery workers clearing silt.
The attacks came as Ukrainian forces were making marginal gains in a counteroffensive in the southern and eastern part of the country. On Monday, Ukraine said troops had recaptured eight settlements in two weeks of fighting.
Ukrainian officials and military experts warned on Tuesday of a long fight ahead.
“In some areas our warriors are moving forward; in some areas they are defending their positions and resisting the occupiers’ assaults and intensified attacks,” Mr. Zelensky said in an overnight speech. He added that he was confident that Ukraine’s forces would prevail.
Even as Russian forces were trying to fend off Kyiv’s offensive, Moscow launched “offensive actions” in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions as part of a broader campaign to take more land in a part of Ukraine where it has held substantial territory since 2014, Ukraine’s general staff said in a daily update on Tuesday.
Moscow was trying to advance near Lyman, Bakhmut, Marinka and Avdiivka in the Donetsk region — according to Hanna Malyar, a Ukrainian deputy defense minister. Lyman fell to Russian forces last spring but was retaken by Ukraine in October.
“Despite the fact that the offensive of our armed forces continues in several directions in the south, the Russians also have their own directions of attack, and they are also going on the offensive,” Ms. Malyar said on national television.
The Russian military released a statement saying it had destroyed Ukrainian troop units and equipment in several locations, and repelled Ukrainian assaults — claims that could not be verified.
Ukraine’s defense minister, Oleksii Reznikov, said on Tuesday that the counteroffensive would be much slower than the rapid gains seen in September, when Ukrainian forces took back a large section of the northeastern region of Kharkiv in a matter of weeks.
Russia, which had months to prepare the terrain it is now defending, built an extensive network of minefields, tank obstacles, trenches and bunkers.
Cassandra Vinograd reported from Kyiv, Ukraine, and Victoria Kim from Seoul. Matthew Mpoke Bigg contributed reporting from London, and Megan Specia and Oleksandr Chubko from Kyiv.