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Ukranian drone downed in Russia, Moscow says, as Kyiv flexes reach

Ukranian drone downed in Russia, Moscow says, as Kyiv flexes reach


The Russian military claimed Monday to have shot down a Ukrainian drone approaching the Engels airfield deep inside Russian territory — in what would be the second such attack in a month, raising questions about the vulnerabilities of Russia’s air defenses.

“A Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicle was shot down at low altitude while approaching the Engels military airfield in the Saratov region,” and three Russian servicemen were killed by the falling wreckage, Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Engels is located more than 370 miles east of the border with Ukraine and is home to Tu-95 and Tu-160 nuclear-capable strategic bombers.

Usually, these are held in reserve to ensure Russia’s nuclear deterrence capabilities. No aircraft were damaged in Monday’s attack, according to the Russian military. The Washington Post could not independently verify Moscow’s claims.

Ukraine strikes another Russian air base, showing vulnerability of defenses

Early this month, strikes attributed to Ukraine rocked two military installations deep inside Russia, including Engels. The attacks, among Ukraine’s most brazen within Russia, killed three Russian servicemen and “slightly damaged” the hull of two planes, Russia’s Defense Ministry said.

While Ukraine has not publicly acknowledged the earlier strikes, senior government officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters, confirmed the country’s responsibility for the previous drone strike at Engels.

It was unclear whether Ukraine used a remodeled Soviet drone or newly developed technology, or whether it launched from Ukrainian territory or inside Russia with the support of special operations forces.

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Yuriy Ihnat, a Ukrainian air force spokesman, in ambiguous, televised remarks on Monday, in keeping with Ukraine’s policy to avoid direct confirmation of strikes on Russia, said Moscow should interpret the latest incident at Engels as a consequence of Russian aggression.

“If the Russians thought that no one in the deep rear or anywhere else would be affected by the war, then they were wrong,” Ihnat said. “As we can see, such things are happening more and more often, and let’s hope that this will only benefit Ukraine.”

Ihnat did not offer any assessment of potential damage.

Loss and resilience: Photos from a year of war in Ukraine

Recent months have seen Ukraine grow bolder and more systemic in its attempts to weaken the Russian military, even as Russian strikes continue to destroy Ukraine’s infrastructure. Some 9 million people across the country remain without power, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address Monday.

This month’s apparent Ukrainian strikes are not the first to target strategic sites well behind Russian lines. In August, the Saki air base near Novofedorivka, Crimea — which Moscow illegally annexed in 2014 and has occupied since — was rocked by blasts, bringing the conflict to a popular holiday destination for Russians.

The following month, Ukraine reportedly struck the base of the Russian 3rd Motorized Rifle Division near Valuyki, close to the Russia-Ukraine border. And in October, Russia said Ukraine attacked “military and civilian” ships near Sevastopol in Crimea. These attacks were intended as a sign, experts say, that Russia’s high-value targets are not off limits.

The strikes on Russia could signal the direction of Kyiv’s strategy in the month ahead, as the war grinds into its second winter. In an interview with the Associated Press on Monday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called for a peace summit in February, but he said he did not expect Russia to participate — the latest sign that the sides are nowhere near talks that could end the conflict.

Isabelle Khurshudyan in Kyiv, Ukraine, contributed to this report.

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