Ukrainian drones struck two air bases deep inside Russian territory, the Kremlin said Monday, just before Russian forces launched a massive barrage of rockets into Ukraine that hit homes and buildings and killed civilians.
The unprecedented attack in Russia threatened a major escalation in the nine-month war by striking an airfield that was home to bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons. President Vladimir Putin has threatened to use all available means to defend his land. Many believe this includes nuclear weapons.
Russia begins bombing Ukraine almost every week in retaliation for another bold attack on October 8. a vital bridge connecting its mainland with the Crimean peninsula was blown up by a truck.
On Monday, Putin tried to show his country could recover from that embarrassment by driving a car over a partially repaired bridge.. Putin personally opened the 19-kilometer (12-mile) bridge in 2018 in a costly effort to bolster his claim to Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014.
In Monday’s retaliatory barrage, missiles knocked out key services in several regions of Ukraine, part of Moscow’s strategy to inflict more pain as winter approaches. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said four people died in the dam on Monday.
Ukraine’s air force claimed to have shot down more than 60 of the 70 missiles, and Zelensky again showed defiance and praised workers who immediately tried to restore power.
“Every Russian missile shot down is concrete proof that terror can be defeated,” Zelensky said in his nightly address.
Ukraine said initial indications were that Russia had fired 38 cruise missiles from carriers in the Caspian Sea and southern Rostov region. In addition, 22 Kalibr cruise missiles were launched from the Russian Black Sea Fleet, and long-range bombers, fighter jets and guided missiles were also involved.
Electricity supplier Ukrenergo said its facilities had been hit, causing some power outages, although the prime minister later said electrical installations were only damaged in three areas, not as widely as in previous attacks.
In the capital Kyiv, crowds quickly filled the central Zoloti Vorota metro station after warnings of an airstrike. There were no signs that the city or the surrounding region had been affected.
Ukrainian media reported explosions south of Kiev, in Cherkasy, Krivyi Rih and Odesa. Water, electricity and central heating were cut off in many parts of Odessa, officials said.
“The enemy is again attacking the territory of Ukraine with missiles!” Deputy Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Kyrylo Tymoshenko wrote to Telegram.
In neighboring Moldova, the interior ministry said on its Facebook account that border patrols had found a missile in an orchard near the northern city of Briceni, near the border with Ukraine. A bomb squad arrived at the scene, but it was not immediately clear when the rocket fell or who fired it.
Detailing the attacks on air bases, the Russian Defense Ministry said it shot down two Ukrainian drones. It said three Russian servicemen were killed, four others were injured and two aircraft were slightly damaged by the debris.
The attacks on the Engels base in the Saratov region on the Volga River and the Diaghilev base in the Ryazan region of western Russia were part of Ukraine’s efforts to limit Russia’s long-range bomber force, the ministry said.
The Engels base, located more than 600 kilometers (more than 370 miles) east of the border with Ukraine, houses the Tu-95 and Tu-160 nuclear strategic bombers that took part in the strike against Ukraine. Dyagilev Air Base, which houses tankers used to refuel other in-flight aircraft, is about 500 kilometers (more than 300 miles) northeast of the Ukrainian border.
The attacks showed the vulnerability of some of Russia’s most strategic military facilities, raising questions about the effectiveness of their air defenses if drones could get so close to them.
The ministry did not say where the drones originated, but Russian military bloggers said they were likely launched by Ukrainian scouts.
Russian news agencies had previously reported explosions in both locations, giving slightly different casualty figures than the Defense Ministry.
The Armed Forces of Ukraine released a photo that purportedly shows blood on the snow under a military vehicle at one of the air bases. Couldn’t verify photo authenticity.
Zelensky’s adviser Mykhailo Podolyak trolled the Russians for the drone attack on Engels without claiming responsibility.
“If anything is launched into the airspace of other countries, sooner or later the unidentified flying objects will return to the point of departure,” Podoliak tweeted.
In other developments, Zelensky’s office said three rockets hit his hometown of Krivyi Rih in southern Ukraine, killing a factory worker and injuring three others. In the northeastern region of Kharkiv, a person was killed when an S-300 missile hit civilian infrastructure in the city of Kupiansk, the report said.
The war, which began with Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, has driven millions from their homes, killed and injured tens of thousands, and shaken the world economy by raising prices and reducing the availability of food, fertilizer and fuel. main exports from Ukraine and Russia.
Western nations imposed a $60-a-barrel cap and ban on Monday for some Russian oil, part of new measures to increase pressure on Moscow over the war.
The Kremlin rejected the move, and Zelensky criticized it as insufficient.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak, in charge of energy, warned on Sunday that Russia would not sell its oil to countries trying to impose a price ceiling.
“We will sell oil and its products only to those countries that will cooperate with us under market conditions, even if we have to reduce production somewhat,” said Novak.
In another move, which took effect on Monday, the 27-nation European bloc imposed an embargo on Russian oil shipped by sea.
Russia, the world’s second-largest oil producer, relies on oil and gas to prop up its economy, which is already under heavy international sanctions.
Contributed by Eduardo Castillo in Kyiv, Yuras Karmanau in Tallinn, Estonia, and Andrew Katell in New York.
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