Multiple attacks on Russian military infrastructure this week have focused attention on Ukraine’s efforts to develop long-range combat drones.
The Russian Defense Ministry said Monday’s attack on two air bases – followed by Tuesday’s attack on an airport – was carried out by Ukrainian drones, which it claimed were shot down by Russian air defenses. Satellite and photographic images indicate some damage to Russian military aircraft at a base in the Ryazan region.
Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense has made no official comment on the bombing, nor has the Ukrainian government acknowledged adding long-range attack drones to its arsenal. However, a cryptic message tweeted by a senior Ukrainian official suggested that Kiev may indeed be behind the attack.
“The Earth is round – Galileo’s discovery. The Kremlin does not study astronomy, giving priority to court astrologers. If so, they will know: if something is launched into the airspace of other countries, the UFO will return to the point of origin sooner or later ,” wrote Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the Ukrainian president.
State-owned arms manufacturer Ukroboronprom has said several times over the past few weeks that it is close to finishing work on a new long-range drone.
In October, it posted an image on Facebook of what appeared to be part of the drone’s structure: “Range 1,000 km (621 miles), combat unit weight 75 kg (165 lb). Putting finishing touches on this.”
A month later, on November 24, Ukroboronprom issued another document stating: “The next stage of drone testing – on behalf of the Chief of General Staff, we are ready to conduct flight tests under the influence of electronic warfare.”
“Weather became a problem on the one hand and an additional test on the complex on the other. A kind of crash test.”
One photo shows what is said to be a drone with the words “az vozdam” inscribed on it, meaning “I will pay back”.
On Saturday, company spokeswoman Natalia Sad told Ukrainian television that “several stages of successful testing have been completed,” the Ukrainian news agency reported.
“In accordance with the instructions of the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, we are entering the phase of testing involving an electronic warfare jamming environment,” she added.
However, there has been no public indication that the drones in question were ready for deployment or were involved in the explosions in Russia.
On Tuesday morning, a drone struck an airport in Russia’s Kursk region, which borders Ukraine, according to the regional governor.
“A tanker caught fire near Kursk airport due to a drone attack. No casualties. The fire is localized. Emergency services are working on the scene,” the region’s governor, Roman Starovoit, said on Telegram.
The Kursk Oblast official telegram channel said Moscow Railways was helping to extinguish the “airport fire”.
Starovoit also said on Telegram that he convened a meeting of the “Counter-Terrorism Committee” and decided to extend the “terrorist danger yellow level” for another 15 days.
Subsequent messages added that classes at both schools were canceled following the incident.
A day earlier, Russia accused Ukraine of drone strikes on two Russian military air bases.
The Russian Defense Ministry said Ukraine used drones to strike two Russian military airfields on Monday morning, according to a statement carried by Russia’s official news agency RIA Novosti, adding that its air defenses intercepted “the Zan region” attacks.
According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, the two bases are located hundreds of miles inside Russian territory and beyond the scope of Ukraine’s declared drone arsenal. No footage or images of the wreckage from the drone have been released.
In the western Russian city of Engels, about 500 miles (more than 800 kilometers) southeast of Moscow, CCTV footage appeared to show an explosion lighting up the sky around 6 a.m. local time on Monday.
The port city, home to Engels-2 Airfield, a strategic bomber airbase, is about 3.7 miles (nearly 6 kilometers) from where the CCTV footage was recorded.
Saratov region governor Roman Busargin assured residents on Telegram that no civilian infrastructure had been damaged, but said “law enforcement agencies are checking information about incidents at military installations.”
He acknowledged that information about “English about a bang and a crack in the early morning” was spreading on social networks and in the media.