Ukrainian official claims drone attacks on Russian territory

New York Times cites official saying special forces team penetrated enemy territory to guide strikes; 3rd strike reported in Kursk region Tuesday

Footage purportedly showing an explosion at Engels air base in Saratov, Russia, December 5, 2022. (Twitter video screenshot: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Footage purportedly showing an explosion at Engels air base in Saratov, Russia, December 5, 2022. (Twitter video screenshot: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

A Ukrainian official has confirmed that Kyiv was behind a double drone strike deep inside Russian territory on Monday that killed three servicemen and wounded another four.

The official, who spoke to The New York Times on condition of anonymity, said that a Ukrainian special forces team was positioned near “at least one of the strikes,” infiltrating deep into Russian territory in order to guide the drone to its target.

A day after the strikes, a third drone attack against Russian targets was reported, this time in the country’s Kursk region, near the Ukrainian border.

“As a result of a drone attack in the area of the Kursk airfield, an oil storage tank caught fire. There were no casualties,” governor Roman Starovoyt said via social media on Tuesday, adding that workers were trying to contain the fire.

Starovoyt did not specify where the drone originated.

The Russian Defense Ministry said Monday’s attacks were carried out using two Soviet-era jet drones aimed at Russian military bases in Ryazan, 100 miles (160 kilometers) from Moscow, and Engels, in southern Russia, some 300 miles (480 kilometers) from the Ukrainian border.

The Kremlin said that the drones were intercepted, but that “the fall and explosion of the wreckage” “slightly damaged” two Russian planes at Engels Air Base, killing and wounding servicemen on the ground.

The airfields targeted by Ukraine are thought to house multiple Russian long-range, nuclear-capable bombers used to attack targets in Ukraine since the beginning of the invasion on February 24. CCTV footage captured an explosion at Engels Air Base, in the country’s Saratov region.

In response to the operation, the Russian military launched a barrage of missiles aimed at Ukrainian cities on Monday, killing four people. The strikes also triggered a shutdown of much of the Ukrainian power grid.

As winter sets in over Europe, Moscow has sought to target Ukraine’s power grid in an effort to demoralize a population buoyant following a series of territorial victories in the war, most notably the Russian withdrawal from Kherson.

Ukrainian government officials maintained their policy of ambiguity regarding military operations against Russia. However, an adviser to Ukraine’s president, Mykhailo Podolyak, alluded to the attack in a tweet on Monday, writing, “The Earth is round — [a] discovery made by Galileo… If something is launched into other countries’ airspace, sooner or later unknown flying objects will return to departure point.”

The war that began with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 has displaced millions from their homes, killed and injured an untold number of civilians, and shaken the world economy — notably through its effect on the prices and availability of foodstuffs, fertilizer, and fuel that are key exports from Ukraine and Russia.

In this photo provided by the Zaporizhzhia region military administration, a damaged building and a car are seen after a Russian strike in the village of Novosofiivka, in the Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine, December 5, 2022. (Zaporizhzhia region military administration via AP)

Western countries on Monday began imposing a $60-per-barrel price cap and a ban on some types of Russian oil, part of new measures aimed at stepping up pressure against Moscow over the war.

The move has prompted a rejection from the Kremlin and also criticism from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky — whose government wants the cap to be half as high.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak, who is in charge of energy issues, warned in televised comments on Sunday that Russia won’t sell its oil to countries that try to apply the price cap.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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