Ukraine has confirmed it successfully shot down a Russian Kh-47M2 Kinzhal hypersonic missile over Kyiv on Thursday, clarifying earlier conflicting reports over whether one of the state-of-the-art weapons had been destroyed.

The announcement was made on Saturday by Lieutenant General Mykola Oleshchuk, commander of the Ukrainian Air Force, who described it as a “historic event” on the social media platform Telegram.

Russia launched a wave of missile and drone attacks at Ukraine on Thursday, most of which were intercepted by air defense, one day after two drones exploded near the Kremlin in Moscow. Russian authorities said the drones were “a planned terrorist act” aimed at assassinating President Putin, though Kyiv has denied having any responsibility.

Patriot missile battery.
Soldiers stand in front of a PATRIOT (Phased Array Tracking Radar to Intercept on Target) surface-to-air missile system during a military exercise at Warsaw Babice Airport, Poland on February 7, 2023. Ukraine claims it used a PATRIOT system to down a Russian hypersonic missile.
JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/GETTY

The Defense Express, a military-focused Ukrainian website, first reported one of the intercepted missiles was a hypersonic Kinzhal on Friday, publishing photographs it said showed the downed missile.

The outlet claimed the interception took place over Kyiv at 2:40 a.m. local time on May 4, with the Kinzhal being destroyed by a “western made air defense system.”

However, on Friday a spokesperson for the Ukrainian Air Force later said they couldn’t say whether a hypersonic missile had been brought down over the capitol.

Hypersonic missiles are defined as those capable of traveling at hypersonic speed, meaning between five and 25 times faster than the speed of sound.

On Saturday, Oleshchuk posted on Telegram confirming a Kinzhal had been destroyed by what he said was a U.S.-designed MIM-104 Patriot surface-to-air missile system.

He commented: “Congratulations to the Ukrainian people on a historic event! Yes, we brought down the ‘unparalleled’ Dagger [Kinzhal]!

“It happened during the night attack on May 4 in the sky of Kyiv Region. The Kh-47 missile was fired by a MiG-31K from the territory of Russia.”

The official Ukrainian Air Force Twitter account also posted: “Ukraine’s air defenders shot down Kinzhal, a hypersonic aeroballistic russian missile, for the first time since the attacks began. This was done by operators of Patriot air defense system.”

Ukraine was provided with Patriot missile systems by the United States, Germany, and the Netherlands, with Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov confirming the first shipments had arrived in April.

Newsweek has contacted the Russian Ministry of Defense for comment by email.

Speaking in 2018, when he unveiled the Kinzhal, Putin claimed the missile was “invulnerable” to air defense systems.

He said: “Possession of such a weapon, of course, gives serious advantages in the field of armed struggle. Its power, power, as military experts say, can be enormous, and speed makes it invulnerable to today’s missile defense and air defense systems, since anti-missiles, in simple terms, simply cannot catch up with them.

“In this regard, it is understandable why the world’s leading armies strive to have such an ideal weapon for today. Russia has such weapons. They already have them.”

On Saturday Ukraine accused Russia of using phosphorus weapons on the Donbas city of Bakhmut, which Moscow’s forces have been attempting to capture for several months in a grueling battle.

newsweek