Ukrainian long-range drone attacks expose Russian air defences

KYIV/NOVOSOFIIVKA: Russia’s third airport caught fire on Tuesday due to a drone strike, a day later Ukraine demonstrated a clear new ability to penetrate hundreds of kilometers into Russian airspace with attacks on two Russian air bases.
Officials in the Russian city of Kursk, which is located closer to Ukraine, released photos of black smoke above an airport early Tuesday morning following the latest strike. The governor said an oil tank was burned but there were no casualties.
It comes a day later Russia confirmed it was hit by what they say is a Soviet-era drone – at Engels Air Force Base, home to Russia’s massive strategic bomber fleet, and at Ryazan, just a few hours’ drive from Moscow. Kiev does not take direct responsibility for the strikes but celebrates them.
“If Russia assessed the incidents as deliberate attacks, they would probably consider it one of the most strategically important failures of the defense force since the invasion of Ukraine,” the ministry said. British Defense said on Tuesday.
“The Russian command system will likely seek to identify and impose severe sanctions on the Russian officers believed to be responsible for the incident.”
The Russian Defense Ministry said three servicemen were killed in the attack in Ryazan. Although the attacks targeted military targets, it described them as terrorist and said the aim was to disable its long-range aircraft.
The New York Times, citing a senior Ukrainian official, said that the drones involved in Monday’s attacks were launched from Ukrainian territory, and at least one of the attacks. was carried out with the help of special forces near the base.
Ukraine never admitted responsibility for attacks inside Russia. When asked about the strikes, Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleskiy Reznikov reiterates an age-old joke that explosions at Russian bases are caused by careless smokers.
“Russians often smoke in places where smoking is prohibited,” he said.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych goes even further, noting that Engels is the only Russian base fully equipped for the giant bombers Russia has used in its attacks on Ukraine.
“They will try to disperse (strategic aircraft) to the airports, but all this complicates the operation against Ukraine. Yesterday, thanks to unsuccessful smoking, we achieved a result. very big,” he said.
Russian commentators said on social media that if Ukraine can strike that deep inside Russia, they can also attack Moscow.
“The ability of the Ukrainian armed forces to reach military targets deep within the territory of the Russian Federation has very symbolic and important significance,” the Ukrainian military analyst said. Serhiy Zgurets wrote on the Espresso TV website.
The massive Tupolev long-range bombers that Russia has at Engels Air Base are a major part of the country’s strategic nuclear arsenal, similar to the B-52s deployed by the US during the War Cold. Russia has used them in its campaign since October to destroy Ukraine’s energy grid with near-weekly missile strikes.
Engels’ base, near the city of Saratov, is at least 600 kilometers (372 miles) from the nearest Ukrainian territory.
Russia responded to Monday’s attacks with what it called a “large-scale attack on Ukraine’s military control system”. Rocket attacks across Ukraine have destroyed homes and lost power, but the impact appears to be less severe than last month’s attacks that plunged millions of Ukrainians into darkness and cold.
Ukraine’s air force said it shot down more than 60 of about 70 missiles.
A rocket tore through a huge crater in the ground in the village of Novosofiivka, about 25 kilometers east of the city of Zaporizhzhia in southern Ukraine, and completely destroyed a nearby house. Ambulance workers collected two bodies lying next to a destroyed car.
Olha Troshyna, 62, said the dead were her neighbors who were standing next to the car seeing off their son and daughter-in-law when the rocket struck. With the houses now destroyed and winter coming, she didn’t know where she was going.
“We have nowhere to turn,” she said. “It’ll be fine if it’s spring or summer. We can do something about it if it’s a warm season. But what shall I do now?”
Ukraine warned of another emergency power outage in some areas as it repairs the damage.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said at least four people were killed in the latest Russian air strikes.
“In many areas, there will be an emergency power outage,” he said in a video address late Monday. “We will do everything to restore stability.”
Russia, calling the invasion a “special military operation” aimed at rooting out nationalists, claims military justification for attacks on Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure. Kiev says the attacks have no military purpose and are aimed at hurting civilians, a war crime.
“They don’t understand one thing – such missile attacks only increase our resistance,” said Ukraine’s Defense Minister Reznikov. “Moreover, they increase the desire of our partners to support us.”
The United States said it would convene a virtual meeting on Thursday with oil and gas executives to discuss how they can support Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, according to a letter obtained by Reuters. .
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Russia would fail in “the current move of trying to convince the Ukrainian people to surrender”.


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