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Aerial Drone Attacks Target Military Aircraft Deep Inside Russia

RIGA, Latvia — During the night, a series of drone strikes targeted at least six Russian cities, including Pskov, situated over 370 miles away from Ukraine. In an assault on the military and civilian airport, two Il-76 cargo planes were destroyed, while four others sustained damage. These events were reported by Baza, a Russian media source connected to the country’s law enforcement.

The coordinated drone attack, believed to have been launched from Ukraine, temporarily led to the suspension of operations at some of Russia’s major airports. Russian soldiers responded by engaging the unmanned aerial vehicles with small arms, underscoring Kyiv’s or its allied forces’ capability to carry out strikes deep within Russian territory. These airstrikes marked the most significant offensive by Kyiv since President Vladimir Putin initiated the invasion of Ukraine back in February 2022.

In Ukraine, the early hours of Wednesday witnessed a tragic event as Russia carried out a combined missile and drone assault on Kyiv, resulting in the loss of at least two lives and injuring three others. The city’s military administration characterized this attack as the most potent strike since the onset of spring. Kyiv has been facing nearly incessant aerial attacks since November.

Footage originating from Pskov, situated 378 miles northwest of Moscow near Russia’s borders with Estonia and Latvia, depicted the planes engulfed in flames.

Dmitry Peskov, the spokesperson for the Kremlin, acknowledged the “massive” nature of the drone attacks. During his routine press briefing, he highlighted that President Putin remained continually informed about the ongoing “special military operation,” a term Moscow employs to describe its ongoing conflict. Peskov evaded questions about the precise launch sites of the drones that targeted the Pskov airfield. He expressed confidence that Russian military experts were diligently investigating the routes and methods used, with the intention of implementing measures to avert similar situations in the future.

Reports from independent Russian media indicated that at the Pskov airport, soldiers attempted to down the drones using small firearms. Subsequently, a team of 65 firefighters was dispatched to extinguish the resulting fires.

While Kyiv did not officially claim responsibility for the assault, Ukraine’s Main Directorate of Intelligence within the Ministry of Defense disclosed that four Il-76 planes were obliterated and two sustained damage. These figures diverged from the accounts presented by Russian media. The Il-76 cargo planes are capable of transporting military personnel and equipment across significant distances.

Although explicit responsibility for the drone attacks was not asserted by Ukraine, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense posted a cryptic message on the platform formerly known as Twitter, implying their involvement: “Did you know that Pskov Airport is named after Kyivan Princess Olha? Oh, what a spectacularly vengeful woman she was!”

Related video: Russia-Ukraine War: Missile Attack At Kyiv As Drones Strike Russian Military Planes (Zee News)

Russian state television, the primary instrument through which the Kremlin shapes public perception of the conflict, barely acknowledged the recent attacks. Despite this, the drone strikes led to the temporary closure of six Russian airports, including significant ones in Moscow, which itself became a target. The occurrence of drone strikes and the subsequent airport shutdowns in the Russian capital has almost become a nightly routine, as Ukraine escalates its efforts to ensure that the impact of the war is keenly felt by Russian citizens in close proximity to the Kremlin.

Remarkably, Russia’s Ministry of Defense omitted any mention of the drone attacks on Pskov during its routine daily media briefing. There was no commentary provided regarding the extent of the damage sustained by the aircraft at the airfield.

Reports from Russian media indicated that the attack on Pskov also triggered a fire at military unit 64044, which houses the 2nd Brigade of the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence special forces.

In Bryansk, a city located in western Russia near the Ukrainian border, a drone attack caused damage to the office of the Investigative Committee—a federal law enforcement agency. This attack also resulted in a fire at the Kremniy EL microelectronics plant, a facility responsible for producing components for Russian missiles, according to reports from Russian media.

Bryansk’s governor, Alexander Bogomaz, confirmed that a television tower had been a target of the attacks, but he also stated that the drone responsible had been successfully intercepted and that the tower itself remained undamaged.

Despite the relative silence regarding the attacks on state television, these strikes gave rise to uncomfortable questions about the shortcomings of Russia’s air defense systems. This was particularly evident in their failure to prevent the assault on the Pskov airport. Certain factions within the country’s staunch pro-war community expressed their frustration with a conflict that, for several months, had not resulted in significant advancements for Russia.

The series of drone attacks during the night occurred 11 days after a drone managed to destroy a Russian supersonic Tu-22M3 strategic bomber at the Soltsy air base in the Novgorod region, situated to the northwest of Moscow, as reported by the open-source military analysis group Ukraine Weapons Tracker. A Telegram channel affiliated with Russian security services confirmed this incident, while the Russian Ministry of Defense acknowledged damage to one plane.

We Can Explain, an opposition media outlet in Russia associated with exiled Russian businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky, quoted two witnesses in Pskov who mentioned the absence of sounds indicating the operation of air defense systems when the drones initiated the attack. Following the attack, residents of Pskov observed three Il-76 aircraft taking off, as reported by local media.

Mikhail Vedernikov, the governor of Pskov, declared that the airport would remain closed until Thursday to assess the extent of damage to the runway.

In addition to Pskov, drones also targeted the Oryol, Ryazan, and Kaluga regions. Moreover, maritime drones conducted an attack on the port of Sevastopol in Russian-occupied Ukrainian Crimea, where Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is stationed. Russia’s Ministry of Defense asserted that it had successfully destroyed four speedboats carrying Ukrainian paratroopers in the Black Sea. However, Ukraine refuted this claim, asserting that the boats were not destroyed.

On Wednesday, the Russian propagandist Vladimir Solovyov vocalized the exasperation felt by Russia’s pro-war faction, often referred to as the “party of war,” during his online morning program, Full Contact.

“What is happening? What is happening?” Solovyov exclaimed with frustration. “Are we not aware of the drones’ point of origin? What’s going on? Are we oblivious to their production, transportation, and storage locations? Where are they being launched from? If we’re struggling with drones, how will we manage F-16s?”

He alluded to the advanced American-made fighter jets that NATO allies have committed to providing to Ukraine in the upcoming months.

Solovyov, without substantiated evidence, speculated that the drones might have been launched from neighboring Estonia, a NATO member. If proven true, he advocated for Russia to conduct airstrikes against Estonia.

“If that’s confirmed, it could trigger a global war. If it’s confirmed, Estonia should cease to exist,” he asserted.

A prominent Russian military blogger, known by the handle Fighterbomber, specializing in aviation matters, stressed the need for Russia to learn from the Pskov attack and enhance the defense of its airfields.

“We must draw conclusions and bolster airfield defenses. Enough has already been discussed about what immediate measures need to be taken for this,” the blogger conveyed via Telegram.

In Kyiv, early on Wednesday, the activation of air defenses prompted loud explosions. This resulted in several non-residential buildings catching fire and sustaining damage.

The two individuals who lost their lives in the assault were identified as security guards, aged 26 and 36, as announced by Kyiv’s military administration. Further details were not immediately available regarding the incident. At least two of the wounded were admitted to hospitals.

According to reports, the Ukrainian air force claimed to have successfully intercepted all 28 Russian cruise missiles purportedly launched from aircraft in the Caspian Sea and the port city of Engels. Additionally, they reported downing 15 out of 16 drones launched from a coastal town on the Sea of Azov and the city of Kursk.

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Meanwhile, the Ukrainian military asserts that it continues its advance in the southern and eastern regions of the country. General Staff spokesperson Andriy Kovalev stated that in the southern theater, troops had achieved success and were currently solidifying the positions they had captured.

The recent passing of Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner private military group and a vociferous critic of Russia’s military leadership in the war, has created a void in the ranks of the most outspoken detractors. His secretive burial last Tuesday, which was also ignored by Russian state television, sent a clear message that the Kremlin considers his name off-limits. Despite his previous criticism, Prigozhin was praised by staunch pro-war nationalists following his demise.

Nevertheless, despite the Kremlin’s concerted efforts to suppress any dissent regarding the war, certain hardliners persist in advocating for a more aggressive approach. Among them is Andrei Gurulyov, a legislator and member of Putin’s United Russia party, who is also a retired lieutenant general from Russia’s army. Gurulyov, a former deputy commander of the Southern Military District, publicly called upon Putin to initiate a tactical nuclear strike against Ukrainian forces in Robotyne, a recently liberated village in southern Ukraine as part of Ukraine’s counteroffensive.

During an appearance on Solovyov’s program, Gurulyov stated on Tuesday that Robotyne represented the “optimal location” for a Russian tactical nuclear strike. He argued that such an action would curtail Ukraine’s counteroffensive and allow Russia, even with its current forces, to regain the advantage.

Gurulyov stated, “We could then make progress, recapturing areas like Zaporizhzhia and even the Dnipropetrovsk region, and pose a threat to the group operating in the Donetsk region.” While Putin has already declared the annexation of Zaporizhzhia and several other Ukrainian regions, he has not laid claim to the adjacent Dnipropetrovsk region. Gurulyov’s statements indicate that some Russian officials desire to expand territorial gains beyond what the president has publicly asserted so far.



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