For the 14th day this month, the city of Kyiv has been the target of Russian aerial attacks.
Ukrainian officials estimate Russia sent more than 50 attack drones toward the capital city early Sunday. The overwhelming majority were destroyed by air defenses, and casualties and damage appear to have been minimal, according to city authorities.
So why does Russia expend so much effort for such limited returns?
Low-cost assault: First, the Iranian-made Shahed drones are a cheap way to inflict at least some pain on Kyiv, which for much of the last year has been spared the impact of the Russian invasion. Russia has bought many hundreds of such drones, which cost roughly 20 times less than a missile.
This pain is as much psychological as physical: The nighttime attacks send thousands to shelters and basements. Windows are shattered, wreckage falls on the streets. Since the beginning of the invasion, the air raid siren has been on in Kyiv for a cumulative 887 hours. The nearest historical parallel might be the Nazis’ use of the V2 "doodlebug" cruise missiles against London at the end of WWII.
The overnight attacks came as the Ukrainian capital was preparing to celebrate Kyiv Day, marking the city's foundation more than 1,500 years ago. That is probably not coincidental.
However, all indications are that — despite the dislocation and exhaustion — the attitude of the city's population is hardened rather than weakened by such attacks.
Chipping away at defenses: The greater purpose on the Russians' part in sending waves of Shaheds is likely to wear down Ukraine's air defenses and force them to expend scarce munitions on the swarms of drones.
Multiple accounts over the past few months, including estimates in leaked US military assessments, have referred to critical shortcomings in Ukraine's layered air defenses, especially as its Soviet-era S-300 system — the workhorse of Ukrainian air defenses — is degraded and it becomes increasingly difficult to find ammunition for such systems.