- Russia says a Ukrainian drone was targeted at an air base
- It is said to have shot down the drone and the aircraft was not damaged
- Three soldiers were said to have been killed by falling debris
- There are no comments from Ukraine
December 26 (Reuters) – Russia said on Monday it shot down a Ukrainian drone near one of its long-range bomber air bases deep inside its territory, killing three Russian air force personnel in the incident.
The drone is said to have flown near Russia’s Engels Air Base, home to long-range strategic bombers that could have been used to target Ukrainian cities and infrastructure. The planes were not damaged in the incident, the Defense Ministry said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies.
Unverified Russian and Ukrainian social media accounts reported that a number of planes were destroyed. Reuters could not independently verify these reports.
The airbase, one of two strategic bomber bases that house Russia’s air-delivered nuclear capability, is located near the city of Saratov, about 730 km (450 miles) southeast of Moscow and hundreds of kilometers from Ukraine’s front lines.
Ukraine, which has never publicly claimed responsibility for the attacks inside Russia, but calls them “karma” for Russia’s February 24 invasion, has not yet commented.
The same base was attacked by Ukrainian drones earlier this month, Russia said at the time.
“A Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) was shot down at low altitude while approaching the Engels military airfield in the Saratov region,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement on Monday.
“Three Russian servicemen at the airfield were fatally injured by falling debris from the drone.
Russia has between 60 and 70 strategic bombers of two types, the Tu-95MS Bear and the Tu-160 Blackjack. Both can carry nuclear bombs and nuclear cruise missiles as well as conventional munitions.
Moscow has used its air force to launch cruise missiles in what it calls its “special military operation” aimed at undermining Ukraine’s military potential. Kyiv said such attacks amounted to war crimes and compared Russia to a terrorist state.
Previous December 5 the strike on the same base, along with another attack on another base on the same day, raised questions about the effectiveness of Russia’s air defenses and shocked Russian observers.
If Ukraine could strike this far inside Russia, it could also strike Moscow, according to social media.
Earlier on Monday, the governor of the Saratov region, Roman Busargin, said that civilian infrastructure was not damaged in the latest incident at the base, which he said was being investigated by authorities.
“There is absolutely no threat to residents… Civil infrastructure objects were not damaged,” said M. Busarginas.
Reporting by Lidia Kelly/Andrew Osborn; Edited by Christopher Cushing, Michael Perry and Angus MacSwan
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