Ukraine’s air defenses shot down dozens of Russian missiles in the sky above Kiev early Thursday, throwing burning debris over the Ukrainian capital on the same day an explosion derailed a Russian freight train in Crimea, the latest in a series of explosions in Russian-occupied territory.
Russia’s railway operator said “unauthorized persons” were behind the derailment, suggesting sabotage. Ukrainian authorities, which often do not confirm or deny responsibility for incidents in Crimea or Russia, did not claim any role in the derailment.
The missile attack and explosion in Crimea come as both Russia and Ukraine prepare for a widely expected Ukrainian offensive aimed at retaking occupied land. In anticipation of that campaign, Russia has fired volley after volley of missiles — Thursday was the ninth attack on Kiev this month — in a far-reaching effort to demoralize civilians and keep Ukraine’s air defenses tied up from the front.
And the explosion in Crimea fit into a pattern of strikes on Russian railways, supply lines, fuel depots and ammunition depots that analysts call a Ukrainian push to cripple Russia’s war machine and sow instability ahead of the offensive.
Ukraine’s air defenses intercepted 29 of 30 missiles fired at Ukraine overnight, the country’s military said on Thursday. Debris from a destroyed missile caused a fire in a district of Kiev, but there were no injuries, according to Serhiy Popko, the city’s military administrator.
“A series of airstrikes against Kiev, unprecedented in their power, intensity and variety, continues,” Popko said on Telegram.
The missile, which slipped through Ukraine’s defenses, hit an industrial infrastructure in Odesa’s southern port, city officials said. One civilian was killed and two others were wounded, according to the Southern Command of the Ukrainian military.
Kiev in particular has been the subject of attack after attack in recent weeks. Russian and US officials had said this week that a Patriot missile system, which protects the city from ballistic missiles, had been damaged in an earlier barrage. But US officials said the system remained operational.
Ukraine has tried to pressure Russian forces both in disputed regions — which it does recent wins in the grueling battle for the city of Bakhmut – and far from the front lines. The Russian authorities and their proxies have reported a series of explosions and attacks in recent weeks, including a series of railway bombings.
The derailment in Crimea on Thursday caused no injuries but disrupted train services between two cities, Simferopol and Sevastopol, according to Sergei Aksyonov, the Russian-installed governor. Russian state news agency RIA Novosti said eight cars derailed, citing a Crimean transport minister.
Video verified by The New York Times showed the train derailed on the outskirts of Simferopol. It was not immediately clear if the train was in motion at the time.
Crimea plays an important role in supplying Russian troops in occupied territories and cargo holds enormous symbolic value to the government of President Vladimir V. Putin, which seized the peninsula in 2014 and has described it as a center point of Russia’s national restoration.
Ukrainian officials have vowed to retake the peninsula, and it has been under attack since Russia’s full-scale invasion began last year, including an explosion that was so bad. damaged the bridge connecting Crimea with Russia.
Without claiming responsibility, Ukrainian officials have described bombings of Russian infrastructure as affecting Russia’s ability to fight — and to prepare for the offensive.
“On these tracks, in particular, weapons, ammunition, armored vehicles and other means used for the war of aggression against Ukraine are transported,” Andriy Yusov, a spokesman for Ukraine’s military intelligence, said on Ukrainian television on Thursday. “It’s quite natural that these tracks didn’t last, got tired and now don’t work for a while.”
But analysts said that while railways are a critical artery for Russia’s war logistics, individual strikes against them have had limited effects.
“The railway track was always restored within a day at most, and the day after an explosion the trains were already running as usual,” said Ruslan Leviev, an analyst at the Conflict Intelligence Team, an investigative group. “This is more of a win in a moral sense, in the spirit of, ‘Look, we can blow up targets deep in Russian territory.’
And military experts warn that it is too early to say whether Ukraine will sustain the apparent attacks, or to judge how effective they have been.
“Whether the attacks will reach sufficient impact to counter Russian operations – we have yet to see,” said Mathieu Boulegue, a Russia expert at Chatham House, a London-based think tank. “It’s all about whether it starts to have a systemic effect.”
In recent weeks, pro-Russian officials have also accused Ukraine of launching drone strikes on the peninsula. In one example, a drone attack on a fuel depot in Sevastopol, home of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, a huge fire started in late April.
There have also been attacks on targets in Russian regions near the Ukrainian border. On Telegram on Thursday, the governor of Russia’s Belgorod region claimed that Ukrainian forces had killed two civilians – he did not say how – in a village near the border. Two trains derailed this month in the Bryansk region, according to local officials.
In several cases, Ukrainian officials have publicly celebrated the events. In April, for example, Mr. Yusov, the intelligence officer, that the fuel depot fire in Crimea “burned nicely and many Ukrainians and good people in the world enjoyed it.”
Victoria Kim, Anton Troyanovski and Haley Willis contributed reporting.