Long-range Ukrainian drone attacks expose Russian air defenses

KYIV/NOVOSOFIIVKA: A third Russian airfield was set on fire by a drone strike on Tuesday, a day after Ukraine demonstrated an apparent new capability to penetrate hundreds of kilometers deep into Russian airspace with attacks against two Russian airbases.
Officials in the Russian city of Kursk, located closer to Ukraine, posted photos of black smoke over an airfield in the early hours of Tuesday morning after the latest strike. The governor said an oil storage tank was set on fire but there were no casualties.
It came a day after Russia confirmed it had been hit by what it said were Soviet-era drones – at Engels Air Base, home to Russia’s strategic bomber fleet giants, and Ryazan, a few hours drive from Moscow. Kyiv did not directly claim responsibility for the strikes but celebrated them.
“If Russia considers the incidents to have been deliberate attacks, it will likely view them as one of the most strategically significant force protection failures since its invasion of Ukraine,” the ministry said on Tuesday. British Defence.
“The Russian chain of command will likely seek to identify and impose severe sanctions on Russian officers found responsible for enabling the incident.”
The Russian Defense Ministry said three servicemen were killed in the Ryazan attack. Although the attacks hit military targets, he called them terrorists and said the goal was to disable his long-range planes.
The New York Times, citing a senior Ukrainian official, said the drones involved in Monday’s attacks were launched from Ukrainian territory and that at least one of the strikes was carried out with the help of special forces close to the base.
Ukraine never acknowledges responsibility for attacks inside Russia. Asked about the strikes, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleskiy Reznikov repeated a long-standing joke that explosions at Russian bases were caused by careless cigarette smokers.
“Very often Russians smoke in places where smoking is not allowed,” he said.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych went further, noting that Engels was the only fully equipped Russian base for the jumbo bombers that Russia has used in attacks on Ukraine.
“They will try to disperse (strategic aircraft) to the airfields, but all this complicates the operation against Ukraine. Yesterday, thanks to their unsuccessful smoking, we achieved a very big result,” he said. .
Russian commentators have said on social media that if Ukraine could hit this far inside Russia, it could also hit Moscow.
“The ability of the Armed Forces of Ukraine to hit military targets deep within the territory of the Russian Federation has a very symbolic and important significance,” the Ukrainian military analyst said. Serhiy Zgurets wrote on the Espreso TV website.
The huge long-range Tupolev bombers that Russia has stationed at Engels Air Base are an important part of its strategic nuclear arsenal, like the B-52s deployed by the United States during the Cold War. Russia has used them in its campaign since October to destroy Ukraine’s energy grid with near-weekly waves of missile strikes.
The Engels base, near the city of Saratov, is at least 600 km (372 miles) from the nearest Ukrainian territory.
Russia responded to Monday’s attacks with what it called a “massive attack on Ukraine’s military control system.” Missile strikes across Ukraine have destroyed homes and knocked out electricity, but the impact appears to be less severe than last month’s barrages that plunged millions of Ukrainians into darkness and cold.
The Ukrainian Air Force said it shot down more than 60 of the approximately 70 missiles.
A missile had torn a huge crater from the ground in the village of Novosofiivka, about 25 km (16 miles) east of the city of Zaporizhzhia in southern Ukraine and completely shredded a nearby house. Paramedics recovered two bodies lying near a wrecked car.
Olha Troshyna, 62, said the dead were her neighbors who were standing by the car watching their son and daughter-in-law when the missile struck. With the houses now destroyed and winter setting in, she didn’t know where she would go.
“We have no place to go back to,” she said. “It would be nice if it was spring or summer. We could have done something if it was a hot season. But what am I going to do now?
Ukraine has warned that there will again be emergency power cuts in several regions as it repairs the damage.
At least four people have been killed in the latest Russian strikes, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said.
“In many areas there will have to be emergency power outages,” he said in a video address Monday night. “We will do everything to restore stability.”
Russia, which calls the invasion a “special military operation” to root out nationalists, claims military justification for its attacks on Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure. Kyiv says the attacks have no military purpose and are aimed at injuring civilians, a war crime.
“They don’t understand one thing – such missile strikes only increase our resistance,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Reznikov said. “In addition, they increase the desire of our partners to support us.”
The United States said it would convene a virtual meeting with oil and gas leaders on Thursday to discuss how it can support Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, according to a letter seen by Reuters.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Russia would fail in its “present gamble of trying, in effect, to get the Ukrainian people to give up.”

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