Three Russian servicemen have died after a Ukrainian drone attack on a crucial airbase deep inside Russian territory, Moscow has said.
According to the defence ministry, a Ukrainian drone was shot down on the approach to Engels base early on Monday morning but falling debris killed three service personnel.
The strike was the second recent attack on the airbase, located about 300 miles away from the Ukrainian border and more than 450 miles south-east of Moscow.
Earlier this month, three servicemen were killed and two aircraft were damaged during an apparent Ukrainian drone attack on the airbase.
The defence ministry said no planes were damaged as a result of Monday’s attack. The details could not be independently confirmed.
The Soviet-era Engels airbase, named after the communist philosopher Friedrich Engels, is a crucial site for Russian air force operations against Ukraine and for the country’s strategic nuclear forces.
It is home to Russia’s 121st heavy bomber aviation regiment, which includes the Tu-95 and Tu-160 strategic bomber squadrons whose missiles have devastated Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.
Gleb Irisov, a former Russian air force lieutenant who left the military in 2020, described the Engels airbase as a “key airfield for the country’s strategic aviation”.
The Ukrainian government made no comment on the reported attacks. Kyiv does not publicly admit to mounting attacks inside Russia but has previously cheered such incidents as payback.
The attack on the Engels airbase once again exposed Russian air defence gaps and demonstrated Kyiv’s ability to penetrate hundreds of miles into Russian airspace.
Monday’s incident also renewed criticism among pro-invasion bloggers and activists over the state of Russia’s military as the war in Ukraine enters its 11th month.
“Comrades, this is war and the enemy will continue to attack … Unfortunately, not all officials understand the complexity of the situation,” Andrey Rudenko, a popular pro-war propagandist, wrote in his channel on Telegram.
“Until there are tough measures taken to address the failures of the defence industry, it will be difficult for us to win.”
In Kyiv, the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said Russia could intensify its shelling of Ukraine’s electrical grid in the coming days, with an intention to plunge Ukraine into darkness before the New Year’s Eve holiday.
“There are only a few days left in this year,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address late on Sunday. “We must be aware that our enemy will try to make this time dark and difficult for us.” (Guardian)