Ukraine has intercepted a Russian hypersonic missile for the first time, it has been reported.
Local media reports suggested air-defence units operating the highly-advanced, US-provided Patriot missile system could have been responsible for the unprecedented feat.
Images purportedly showing the fragments of a downed Kh-47M2 Kinzhal missile, which Russia claims can fly at 10 times the speed of sound, were published by the Ukrainian Defence Express outlet.
The wreckage of the missile, known in Russia as the “dagger”, fell on an empty football stadium in Kyiv after a loud explosion was reported in the early hours of Thursday morning.
The bang coincided with a long-range Russian barrage using Iranian-made drones and less sophisticated missiles targeting the Ukrainian capital, according to local administrators, who did not confirm the use of a hypersonic missile.
Pictures of the remains appeared to show a hole in the top of the weapon’s pointed shell, reportedly created by a precision munition, while the rocket was still mid-air.
The Defence Express outlet claimed it had “obviously” been intercepted by a newly-acquired Patriot missile system.
A soldier from the Ukrainian air-defence team responsible for the interception confirmed the Kinzhal had been destroyed by the US-donated system, in a tweet that has since been deleted.
The unit reportedly detected, tracked and downed the missile in its final stages of flight, when it starts to slow down.
Officials from Ukraine’s Air Force refused to comment on the claims.
Before the apparent interception there were no known successful attempts in taking out the hypersonic weapon, which had been dubbed “unstoppable” by the Kremlin.
Russian forces first used the Kinzhal in combat in Ukraine on March 29 last year, when the missile was used to strike a fuel depot.
The missile, which is fired from specially adapted Mig-31 jet fighters, has a claimed range of up 1,900 miles.
According to Russian claims, the missile cannot be downed by any of the West’s most advanced air-defence systems
Until the delivery of Patriot systems to Ukraine, Kyiv’s armed forces said they had no way of intercepting the hypersonic rocket.