US warns of ‘war crimes’ after Russian drone attack on Ukraine

At least four people were killed in ‘kamikaze’ drone attacks that targeted Kyiv early on Monday.

The United States has said it will hold Russia accountable for “war crimes” and take action against companies and nations working with Iran’s drone programme following a series of attacks on Ukrainian cities.

At least four people – including a couple expecting a baby – were killed on Monday morning after a drone struck an apartment building in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. The attacks also knocked out power to hundreds of towns and villages.

Speaking in his regular evening address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the air raids were continuing.

“Right now, there is a new Russian drone attack,” he said. “There are [drones] that have been shot down.”

Ukraine has said the attacks have been carried out with “kamikaze” drones, Shahed-136s that were reportedly bought by Russia from Iran. Officials in Tehran have denied selling the weapons to Moscow.

US President Joe Biden’s press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, told reporters the White House “strongly condemns Russia’s missile strikes today” and said the attack “continues to demonstrate [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s brutality”.

Referring to a new $725m military aid package announced for Ukraine last Friday, Jean-Pierre said: “We will continue to stand with the people of Ukraine for as long as it takes.

“We will continue to impose costs on Russia, hold them accountable for its war crimes.”

Officers shoot at a drone during a Russian attack on Kyiv on Monday morning [Vadim Sarakhan/Reuters]

Ukrainian soldiers fired into the air in an attempt to shoot down the drones after explosions rocked the capital on Monday morning. An anti-aircraft rocket could be seen streaking into the morning sky, followed by an explosion and orange flames, as residents raced for shelter.

Sanctions warning

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the attacks showed the need to provide “everything possible” to Ukraine as its forces continue their offensive against the Russian invaders into the colder months.

The Russians are “attacking critical infrastructure like power plants, hospitals, the things that people need in their daily lives that are not military targets,” Blinken told reporters at Stanford University in California.

“It is a sign of increased desperation by Russia, but it’s also a sign of the levels that they will stoop to and that we’ve seen repeatedly when it comes to targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure,” Blinken said.

France, the United Kingdom and the United States have said that Iran supplying drones, officially known as uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs), to Russia would violate a UN Security Council resolution that endorsed the now moribund 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six powers.

The resolution’s ban on Iranian exports of conventional weapons expired in October 2020, but restrictions on exports related to ballistic missiles that could deliver nuclear weapons remain in force until October next year.

“Anyone doing business with Iran that could have any link to UAVs or ballistic missile developments or the flow of arms from Iran to Russia should be very careful and do their due diligence – the US will not hesitate to use sanctions or take actions against perpetrators,” US Department of State spokesperson Vedant Patel told reporters.

“Russia deepening an alliance with Iran is something the whole world, especially those in the region and across the world, frankly, should be seeing as a profound threat,” he said.

Asked for comment, the Iranian mission to the United Nations repeated a statement issued by the government on Friday that said it supports upholding the UN Charter and the UN’s attempts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in Ukraine. The Kremlin has not commented.

Several EU foreign ministers have also called for sanctions against Iran over the drones.

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