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Russia’s defence ministry has said that two explosions that hit its air bases in central Russia early on Monday morning were the result of Ukrainian drone attacks, which it claimed to have intercepted.
The drones flew at low altitude, it said, and were shot down, but the resulting explosions killed three at the Ryazan air base and led to some superficial damage of aircraft, the ministry said.
Earlier on Monday, videos appeared on Russian social media channels showing a large-scale explosion in the Saratov region, and state media reported a fuel tanker explosion at the Ryazan site.
“In an attempt to to disable Russian long-range aircraft, Ukraine tried to strike military airfield ‘Dyagilevo’ in the Ryazan region and ‘Engels’ in the Saratov region, using Soviet-made jet unmanned aerial vehicles,” the defence ministry spokesman said in a statement.
Ukrainian officials did not immediately take clear credit for the drone strikes on the two Russian airbases. In a Telegram channel post, Oleksiy Arestovych, an advisor in the Zelenskyy administration, mocked Russia’s forces by suggesting the explosions could have been caused by their troops smoking too close to flammable objects.
Despite the attack, Russia was able to launch yet another large-scale bombardment across Ukraine, the Russian ministry said.
“Despite the attempts of the Kyiv regime to disrupt the combat work of the Russian long-range aviation with a terrorist act, today . . . a massive strike was carried out,” it said.
The Ukrainian drone attack represents a significant blow to the perceived invulnerability of Russian positions far from the frontline.
It also confirms one of the main conclusions of a recent report by the Royal United Services Institute in London think tank, which is widely considered the most accurate rendering of the conflict so far.
“There is no sanctuary in modern war,” the report concluded. “The first clear lesson from the war in Ukraine is that the enemy can conduct strikes on targets throughout its adversary’s operational depth with long-range precision fires.”
While Russian missile strikes have been penetrating deep into Ukrainian territory, this would be the furthest that Ukraine has struck by a long margin.