Six Russian balloons were spotted over Kyiv and most were shot down after being engaged by air defenses, the Ukrainian capital’s military administration said on Wednesday.
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It said the balloons may have been carrying corner reflectors and reconnaissance equipment but did not specify when they flew over the capital, although air alerts were issued in Kyiv on Wednesday.
“According to information that is now being clarified, these were balloons that move in the air under the propulsion of wind,” the military administration wrote on the Telegram messaging app.
“The purpose of launching the balloons was possibly to detect and exhaust our air defenses.”
Shortly before the announcement, Ukrainian air force spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat said Russia, which invaded Ukraine in February last year, could be using balloons in a new drive to preserve its stocks of reconnaissance drones.
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“Reconnaissance drones like the Orlan-10 are now being used more sparingly (by Russia), and they thought ‘Why don’t we use these balloons?’ So they are using them,” Ihnat told Ukrainian television.
He confirmed that air raid sirens had blared in the capital on Wednesday because of balloons flying overhead.
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Ihnat echoed the military administration’s suggestion that Russia could be using the balloons to distract Ukrainian air defenses.
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“The enemy wants us to use our air defenses, which protect our strategic objects, on these balloons, which cost nothing.”
Russia did not immediately comment on the reports of balloons over Kyiv.
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Moldovan airspace shutdown
Ukraine’s southwestern neighbor Moldova, which has reported Russian missile intrusions into its airspace several times in recent months, also reported an unidentified Russian object over its territory.
The country shut its airspace for over an hour on Tuesday after a flying object “resembling a meteorological balloon” was sighted by authorities.
On Wednesday, the speaker of Moldova’s parliament, Igor Grosu, told reporters the flying object that had caused the country to close its airspace belonged to Russia.
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Grosu said the balloon had crossed into northern Moldova from Ukraine.
“It is either a (unmanned aerial vehicle), or a device which is taking some kind of measurements at a certain height,” he added.
Romania, a NATO member state that borders both Ukraine and Moldova, said on Tuesday it had scrambled jets after an aerial target resembling a weather balloon was spotted in its airspace.
— Reporting by Max Hunder and Pavel Polityuk in Kyiv and Alexander Tanas in Chisinau, Editing by Timothy Heritage and Bill Berkrot
© 2023 Thomson Reuters
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