Russia says it has brought down three Ukrainian drones

Site of a downed drone in Kalininets, outside Moscow, June 21st 2023
Site of a downed drone in Kalininets, outside Moscow, June 21st 2023 Copyright AP/Moscow Region Governor Andrei Vorobyev telegram channel
By Daniel Bellamy with AP
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Two of the drones were brought down outside Moscow as they approached the warehouses of a local military unit, Russian authorities said on Wednesday.


The drone attacks could be the latest attempt by Ukraine to strike targets inside Russia during the early stages of Kyiv's most recent counteroffensive.

At the same time, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that the Ukrainian forces were regrouping after what he described as a failed counteroffensive and could be readying new attempts to attack Russian positions.

The two drones came down near the village of Lukino, administratively part of the city of Moscow, Russian media reported. The wreckage of a third drone was reportedly found about 20 kilometres away. No damage or casualties were reported.

Russia’s Defence Ministry claimed it was “an unsuccessful attempt at a terrorist attack” by “the Kyiv regime” on its facilities in the Moscow region, adding in a statement that all three drones were brought down by electronic jamming.

Ukraine, which doesn't usually confirm attacks on Russian soil, made no immediate comment. Previously, Ukrainian officials have emphasized the country’s right to strike any target in response to Russia's invasion and war that started in February 2022.

Last month, two drone attacks jolted the Russian capital, in what appeared to be Kyiv’s deepest and most daring strikes into Russia. The first one, on May 3, targeted the Kremlin itself but the Russian authorities announced the devices were shot down before they could do any damage. The second one, on May 30, brought the war home to Muscovites, although the actual damage was minimal.

At the time of the attack on the Kremlin, Putin said Moscow’s air defence “worked in a satisfactory way,” but added it was “clear what we need to do to plug the gaps” in the system.

Other drones have reportedly flown deep into Russia multiple times. Since February, when a UJ-22 crashed 100 kilometres from Moscow, Ukrainian drones have repeatedly approached the Russian capital.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, confirming Wednesday’s drone attack, said only that “the means of combatting drones did their job.”

Meanwhile, train traffic was briefly disrupted on the Crimean Peninsula on Wednesday, according to its Russian-installed governor, Sergei Aksyonov.

Aksyonov didn’t say what caused the disruption, but some Russian media outlets reported that the rail lines were blown up overnight in apparent sabotage operations. A few hours later, the authorities said the service was restored. Rail lines through Crimea are crucial for supplying Russian forces at the front line in southern and eastern Ukraine.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, a move that most of the world considers illegal. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said that his country aims to reclaim the peninsula in a counteroffensive that began in recent weeks.

In response to Ukraine’s military threat using advanced weapons supplied by Western allies, Russia has in recent weeks expended “significant effort” on assembling “elaborate” defensive lines on the approaches to Crimea, according to the U.K. Defence Ministry.

For the Kremlin, ensuring control of Crimea is “a top political priority,” the ministry said in a tweet on Wednesday. There is “intense fighting” in parts of southern Ukraine where Kyiv’s forces are testing Russian defences, it added.

Putin claimed there had been a recent lull in the fighting in Ukraine, claiming that Kyiv’s forces were regrouping after suffering heavy losses. He warned in an interview with Russian state television, however, that “their offensive capability hasn’t been exhausted yet, they have reserves and the enemy is considering where and how to use them.”

Also on Wednesday, European Union countries agreed on a new package of sanctions against Russia over the war, including measures aimed at preventing third countries and businesses from circumventing existing sanctions. For example, they would restrict the export of sensitive technological goods to third countries who could then transfer them to Russia.

Also, Ukraine’s allies pledged several billion dollars in non-military aid to rebuild its war-ravaged infrastructure, fight corruption and help pave the country’s road to membership of the European Union. Diplomats and political leaders at a Ukraine Recovery Conference in London urged private-sector companies to invest and revive an economy battered by the war.

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