Ukraine 'downs six hypersonic missiles': why it matters

STORY: Ukraine's military says it destroyed six Russian hypersonic missiles over the skies of Kyiv overnight, out of a volley of 18 aimed at the country.

And, if confirmed it could mark a major demonstration of the effectiveness of its newly deployed Western air defenses against what Russia has previously described as an unstoppable superweapon: called the Kinzhal missile, or Russian for "dagger."

But what is the Kinzhal missile? What makes it supposedly so potent, and what would their purported interception suggest?

These photos are said to show the aftermath of the wreckage falling below. Three people were reportedly injured.

The Kinzhal is said to be able to travel at 10 times the speed of sound, hence the label hypersonic.

Russia's defense ministry says a Kinzhal destroyed a Patriot air defense system in the overnight volley, an American model recently deployed by Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has frequently described the Kinzhal as proof of "next generation" weapons that can take on NATO, with a range of 2,000 miles and the ability to carry a nuclear or conventional warhead.

They were first unveiled to public in 2018. This footage from Russia's defense ministry shows them launching from a fighter aircraft. Russia says it used them for the first time in Ukraine last year and has only acknowledged their use on a few occasions.

Earlier this month Ukraine claimed it shot one down over the capital for the first time, using one of those Patriot air defense systems.

Previously the ability for Patriots to intercept Kinzhals was only theoretical. Hitting six at once would suggest it could be a reliable defense, rather than just a lucky shot.

The Kinzhal is not Russia's only hypersonic weapon. It also possesses a hypersonic cruise missile called the Zircon, which can be deployed by naval ships.