A fire blamed on a drone attack broke out at an airport in Russia’s southern Kursk region that borders Ukraine, the region’s governor said Tuesday.
In a second incident, an industrial plant 80 kilometres from the Ukrainian border was also targeted by drones, Russian independent media reported, apparently missing a fuel depot at the site.
The strikes were carried out a day after Moscow blamed Kyiv for unprecedented drone attacks on two air bases deep inside Russia, and carried out another wave of missile strikes on Ukrainian territory.
Marking Ukraine’s armed forces day, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy travelled to the eastern Donetsk region and vowed to push Russian forces out of all of Ukraine’s territory.
“Everyone sees your strength and your skill. ... I’m grateful to your parents. They raised real heroes,” Zelenskyy said in a video address to Ukrainian forces from the city of Sloviansk, a key Ukrainian stronghold in the east.
Ukrainian officials have not formally confirmed carrying out the drone attacks, maintaining their apparent policy of deliberate ambiguity as they have done in the past when it comes to high-profile attacks on Russian targets.
But presidential adviser Mikhail Podolyak taunted Moscow in comments on Twitter.
“If something is launched into other countries’ airspace, sooner or later unknown flying objects will return to the point of departure,” Podolyak wrote. “The earth is round.”
The attacks on Russian bases — more than 500 kilometres from the border with Ukraine — exposed the vulnerability of some of Russia’s most strategic military sites, raising questions about the effectiveness of their air defences.
They also threatened a major escalation of the nine-month war. One of the airfields houses bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
Russia's Defense Ministry said three Russian servicemen were killed and four others wounded by debris, and that two aircraft were slightly damaged.
The ministry didn’t say where the drones had originated. But Russian military bloggers said they likely were launched by Ukrainian scouts and argued that the strikes had inflicted serious reputational damage on Moscow.
Watch the video in the player above.