Overnight drone attacks reach deep into Russia
By Andrew E. Kramer and Victoria Kim
Exploding drones attacked six regions of Russia overnight Wednesday and damaged four military cargo planes at an airfield hundreds of miles from Ukraine, Russian officials said, suggesting that, after months of enduring missile and drone strikes with little recourse, Ukraine is increasingly able to hit back deep inside Russia.
In what appeared to be the most successful of the strikes, four Russian Il-76 military cargo planes were damaged while parked near a runway at an airfield in Pskov, 30 miles from the border with Estonia, a NATO member. The Russian regional governor posted video footage of smoke billowing from an airfield where he said drones had damaged the planes, although the extent was unclear.
Russia also launched a wave of attacks on Ukraine early Wednesday that targeted at least three regions. Ukraine’s air force said it had shot down 43 of 44 missiles and drones, although officials in Kyiv, the capital, said that falling debris from drones or missiles shot down by air defense systems killed at least two people.
Local officials said the barrage was the most significant in the Kyiv region in months. But the volley of drones exploding in Russia was exceptional and appeared to be the result of a long effort by Ukraine to answer Russian missile and drone attacks on Ukrainian cities, infrastructure and military targets.
While Ukrainian officials did not claim responsibility for the overnight strikes, in keeping with their practice involving attacks inside Russia, they have made it increasingly clear that they view bringing the war home to ordinary Russians to be a legitimate tactic against Moscow’s invasion.
“We all went through these attacks by Russia,” Oleksandr Danylyuk, the former secretary of Ukraine’s national security and defense council, said in an interview Wednesday. “We understand how destructive they can be. It’s important to be able to retaliate.”
The attacks have destroyed valuable military equipment, although they have done little significant damage to Russia’s overall military might. They are also intended to pierce Russian propaganda by showing Russians that their military is vulnerable and to bolster morale among Ukrainians wanting payback.
On Wednesday, the Russian governor of the Pskov region, Mikhail Vedernikov, posted videos on the Telegram messaging app that show a large nighttime fire with billowing smoke and what appeared to be air defenses being fired at incoming drones.
He later wrote that a review of the airfield had been conducted and that “everything is in order,” adding that operations would resume there Thursday.
Russia’s Defense Ministry did not address the event in Pskov. It said that at least eight Ukrainian drones had been intercepted over five regions south and southwest of Moscow. The drones were shot down in the Bryansk, Oryol, Kaluga and Ryazan regions, as well as in the Ruza district on the outskirts of the Moscow region, the ministry said.
In Ukraine, explosions and the roar of launching air defense missiles shook Kyiv around 5 a.m. The capital was targeted with missiles and drones in the largest attack since the spring, Serhiy Popko, the head of the Kyiv regional military administration, said in a statement.
A barrage of drones flew at the city, later followed by missiles, more than 20 of which were shot down, he said. Two people in the city were killed by debris, according to Popko and the city’s mayor.