Los Angeles Times

Kremlin cites Ukrainian drone incursions

Russia orders tighter defense measures after attacks in areas along its border and deep inside its territory.

- By Susie Blann Blann writes for the Associated Press.

KYIV, Ukraine — Drones that the Kremlin said were launched by Ukraine flew deep inside Russian territory, including one that got within 60 miles of Moscow, signaling breaches in Russian defenses as President Vladimir Putin ordered stepped-up protection at the border.

Officials said the drones caused no injuries or significan­t damage, but the attacks Monday night and Tuesday morning raised questions about Russian defense capabiliti­es more than a year after the country’s full-scale invasion of its neighbor.

Ukrainian officials did not immediatel­y claim responsibi­lity, but they have similarly avoided directly acknowledg­ing responsibi­lity for past strikes and sabotage while emphasizin­g Ukraine’s right to hit any target in Russia.

While Putin didn’t refer to any specific attacks during a speech in the Russian capital, his comments came hours after drone attacks targeted several areas in southern and western Russia and after authoritie­s closed the airspace over St. Petersburg in response to what some reports said was a drone in the area.

Also Tuesday, several Russian television stations aired a missile attack warning that officials blamed on a hacking attack.

The drone attacks targeted regions inside Russia along the border with Ukraine and deeper into the country, according to Russian authoritie­s.

A drone fell near the village of Gubastovo, 60 miles southeast of Moscow, said Andrei Vorobyov, the governor of the region surroundin­g the capital.

The drone didn’t cause any damage, Vorobyov said in an online statement. He didn’t describe the drone as Ukrainian, but said that it probably targeted “a civilian infrastruc­ture object.”

Pictures of the drone showed that it was a Ukrainian-made type. It reportedly has a range of nearly 500 miles but isn’t capable of carrying a large load of explosives.

Russian forces early Tuesday shot down a Ukrainian drone over the Bryansk region, local Gov. Aleksandr Bogomaz said in a post on the messaging app Telegram.

Three drones also targeted Russia’s Belgorod region, near the Ukrainian border, on Monday night, with one flying through an apartment window in the capital, Belgorod city, local authoritie­s reported. Regional Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov said the drones caused minor damage to buildings and cars.

The Russian Defense Ministry said that Ukraine used drones to attack facilities in the Krasnodar region and neighborin­g Adygea. It said the drones were brought down by electronic warfare assets, adding that one of them crashed into a field and another diverted from its designated flight path and missed an infrastruc­ture facility it was supposed to attack.

Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti reported a fire at the oil facility, and some other Russian reports said two drones exploded nearby.

Although Ukrainian drone strikes on the Russian border regions of Bryansk and Belgorod, which lie north of Ukraine’s Sumy region, aren’t unusual, other strikes reflected a more ambitious effort.

While some Russian commentato­rs described Tuesday’s drone attacks as an attempt by Ukraine to showcase its capability to strike areas deep behind the front lines, to foment tensions in Russia and to rally the Ukrainian public, some Russian war bloggers described the raids as a possible rehearsal for a bigger, more ambitious attack.

Russian hawks called for strong retaliatio­n. Igor Korotchenk­o, a retired Russian army colonel turned military commentato­r, called for a punishing strike on the Ukrainian presidenti­al office in Kyiv.

Another retired military officer, Viktor Alksnis, noted that the drone attacks marked the expansion of the conflict and criticized Putin for failing to deliver a strong response.

Also on Tuesday, authoritie­s reported that the airspace around St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city, was temporaril­y closed. They did not give a reason for the move, but some Russian reports claimed that it was triggered by an unidentifi­ed drone.

The Defense Ministry in Moscow said it was conducting air defense drills in western Russia.

Last year, Russian authoritie­s repeatedly reported shooting down Ukrainian drones over annexed Crimea. In December, the Russian military said Ukraine used drones to hit two bases for long-range bombers deep inside Russian territory.

Speaking at Russia’s main security agency, the FSB, Putin urged the service to tighten security on the border with Ukraine.

Also fueling tensions across Russia on Tuesday, an air-raid alarm interrupte­d the programmin­g of TV channels and radio stations in several regions. Russia’s Emergency Ministry said in an online statement that the announceme­nt was a hoax “resulting from a hacking of the servers of radio stations and TV channels in some regions of the country.”

Meanwhile, satellite photos analyzed by the Associated Press appeared to show that a Russian warplane in Belarus that Belarusian guerrillas claimed to have targeted was largely intact.

High-resolution images from Planet Labs showed no immediate signs of damage to the Russian A-50 early warning and control aircraft after what Belarusian opposition activists described as an attack on the Machulishc­hy air base Sunday outside the Belarusian capital, Minsk.

Belarusian activists supporting Ukraine alleged that the aircraft was seriously damaged, but Russian and Belarusian officials did not comment on the claims.

In Ukraine, four people were killed and five others wounded Tuesday by renewed Russian shelling of the southern city of Kherson, regional Gov. Oleksandr Prokudin said on Telegram.

A 68-year-old man was also killed as Russian forces shelled Kupiansk, a town in northeaste­rn Ukraine’s Kharkiv region, Gov. Oleh Sinegubov said.

The fiercest fighting continued to be in eastern areas of Ukraine, where Russia is attempting to exert control over all four of the provinces it illegally annexed in September.

Ukrainian officials said Russian forces have deployed additional troops and equipment, including the latest T-90 battle tanks, in those areas.

In a video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked U.S. industrial­ists for supporting Ukraine and voiced hope for their support in rebuilding the country after the war. Zelensky noted that his nation faces a “colossal task” to restore hundreds of thousands of damaged sites, including “whole cities, industries, production­s.”

 ?? Vadim Ghirda Associated Press ?? RUSSIAN forces shelled Kupiansk in northeaste­rn Ukraine’s Kharkiv region, killing a 68-year-old man, an official said. Rocket fire last week destroyed a house in the town, above, that was sheltering Ukrainian forces.
Vadim Ghirda Associated Press RUSSIAN forces shelled Kupiansk in northeaste­rn Ukraine’s Kharkiv region, killing a 68-year-old man, an official said. Rocket fire last week destroyed a house in the town, above, that was sheltering Ukrainian forces.

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