KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Drones struck inside Russia’s border with Ukraine on Tuesday in a second day of attacks that exposed the vulnerability of some of Moscow’s most important military sites, experts said.
Ukrainian officials have not officially confirmed drone strikes inside Russia, and have been vague about earlier high-profile attacks.
But Britain’s Ministry of Defense said Russia was likely to view attacks on Russian bases more than 500 kilometers from the border with Ukraine as “some of the most significant strategic failures in force protection since its invasion of Ukraine”.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russian authorities would take “necessary measures” to strengthen protection of key facilities. Russian bloggers, who generally communicate with their country’s military officials, criticized the lack of defensive measures.
A fire broke out at an airport in Russia’s southern Kursk region, which borders Ukraine, after a drone hit the facility, the region’s governor said on Tuesday. Independent Russian media reported that in a second incident, an industrial plant 80 kilometers from the Ukrainian border was also targeted by drones, which destroyed a fuel depot there.
“They will have less air equipment after being damaged by these mysterious explosions,” said Yuri Ihnat, spokesman for the Air Force Command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. This is undoubtedly great news because if one or two planes fail, a number of other planes may fail in some way in the future. It reduces their ability.”
Moscow blamed Kiev for the unprecedented attacks on two air bases deep in Russia a day earlier. The attacks on the Engels base in the Saratov region on the Volga River and the Diaghilev base in the Ryazan region in western Russia were some of the most daring attacks inside Russia during the war.
After that, Russian forces launched another wave of missile attacks on Ukrainian soil, hitting homes and buildings and killing civilians, which damaged the force and other infrastructure during weeks of rocket attacks.
The regional governor said on Tuesday that almost half of the households in the Kiev region were without power, while authorities in southern Odessa – which was hit hard on Monday – said they had managed to restore power to hospitals and some vital services. .
In a new show of defiance, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky traveled near the front line in the eastern Donetsk region. On the occasion of the Day of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, he promised to expel Russian forces from all Ukrainian territory.
“Everyone sees your strength and skill. … I am grateful to your parents. “They raised real heroes.”
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said at a news conference in Washington that the US “neither encouraged nor allowed the Ukrainians to invade inside Russia.” But he said the United States — along with many other countries supporting Kyiv — is determined to make sure Ukrainians “have the equipment they need to defend themselves, defend their territory and defend their freedom.”
The Russian Ministry of Defense claimed that the attack was carried out by Soviet-made drones. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, which split Russia and Ukraine into separate countries, Ukraine inherited some of the Soviet-designed Tu-141 Strizh drones that entered service in the 1970s and had a range of 1,000 km (more than 600 miles).
They are designed for reconnaissance missions, but can be fitted with a warhead, effectively turning them into a cruise missile. Unlike modern drones, Strizh or Swift, drones can only stay in the air for a limited time and fly directly to the designated target. Their outdated technology makes drones easily detectable – and easily shot down – by modern air defense systems.
A pro-war Russian blogger on Monday attacked the Russian military leadership in a post on the “Milinfolive” Telegram channel, claiming that the incompetence and lack of proper fortifications at air bases made the Ukrainian drone attacks possible.
The Ministry of Defense of Russia announced that three Russian soldiers were killed and four others were injured by the debris, and two planes were slightly damaged in Monday’s attacks.
Neither side has made significant progress since Ukrainian forces took control of the key Russian-occupied city of Kherson in November.
But Ukrainian officials have indicated that the country plans to pursue counterattacks in the winter, when the frozen ground is suitable for moving heavy equipment. The city of Kherson is still being hit by Russian missiles, but if Ukrainian forces establish firm control there, it could be a springboard for an advance towards Crimea.
Sergei Markov, a pro-Kremlin political analyst, said recent attacks in Ukraine “have raised questions about the security of Russian military air bases.”
The Engels base hosts Tu-95 and Tu-160 nuclear-capable strategic bombers that participated in the attacks on Ukraine. Diaghilev has tanker planes that are used for mid-air refueling.
The British Ministry of Defense said in a daily intelligence update on the war in Ukraine that the bombers would likely be dispersed to other airports.
“The method of the Ukrainian regime to continue such terrorist attacks is a threat,” Peskov said in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday.
Peskov reiterated that Russia currently sees no prospects for peace talks and added: “The Russian Federation must achieve its declared goals.”
Denis Pushilin, the president of the Russian-backed Donetsk People’s Republic, said Ukrainian rocket attacks in the separatist-held city of Donetsk, about 100 kilometers south of where Zelenskiy was speaking, killed. He said that one of the dead was a 29-year-old member of the Parliament of the People’s Republic of D.
Meanwhile, local Ukrainian officials said Russia continued its heavy attacks on Ukrainian territory, shelling towns near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant around the clock, leaving more than 9,000 homes without running water.
These cities are located across the Dnieper River from the nuclear power plant that was captured by Russian forces in the early stages of the war. For months, Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of bombing the power plant and its surroundings.
The head of Ukraine’s third northern region, which borders Russia, said Moscow had launched more than 80 rocket and heavy artillery attacks on its territory. The attacks damaged a monastery near the border town of Shalihin, Governor Dmytro Zhivitsky said.
Ahnat, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Air Force, said that the country’s ability to shoot down incoming missiles is improving, noting that there have been no recent reports of Iranian-made attack drones being used on Ukrainian soil.
Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.
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