Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Putin orders border security to be reinforced as drones fly far inside Russia

Drones fly deep inside Russia; Putin orders border tightened

 KYIV: Drones that the Kremlin claims were launched by Ukraine flew deep inside Russian territory, including one that got within 60 miles (100 km) of Moscow. This indicated that Russian defenses had been breached, prompting President Vladimir Putin to increase border security.

Although the attacks on Monday night and Tuesday morning raised questions about Russian defense capabilities more than a year after the country's full-scale invasion of its neighbor, officials claimed that the drones did not cause any injuries or significant damage.

While emphasizing Ukraine's right to strike any target in Russia, officials from Ukraine have also avoided directly acknowledging responsibility for previous sabotage and strikes.

In a speech in the Russian capital, Putin did not mention any specific attacks; however, his remarks came just hours after the drones hit several areas in western and southern Russia. In response to what some reports claimed was a drone, the airspace above St. Petersburg was closed off by the authorities.

A missile attack warning was also broadcast on Russian television on Tuesday, and officials attributed it to a hacking attempt.

According to local Russian authorities, the drone attacks targeted regions inside Russia farther into the country than the border with Ukraine.

Andrei Vorobyov, governor of the region surrounding the Russian capital, stated in an online statement that a drone crashed near the village of Gubastovo, which is less than 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Moscow.

Vorobyov stated that the drone did not cause any harm, but it most likely targeted "a civilian infrastructure object."

The drone was shown in pictures as a small model made in Ukraine with a reported range of up to 800 kilometers (approximately 500 miles) but no capacity to carry a lot of explosives.

Local Gov. Aleksandr Bogomaz said in a Telegram post that Russian forces shot down another Ukrainian drone early on Tuesday over the Bryansk region.

On Monday night, three drones also targeted Russia's Belgorod region, one of which flew through an apartment window in the capital, according to reports from local authorities. The drones, according to Vyacheslav Gladkov, caused minor damage to cars and buildings.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, Ukraine carried out attacks on facilities in the Krasnodar and Adygea regions. It added that one of the drones crashed into a field and another deviated from its flight path and missed a facility it was supposed to attack, claiming that the drones were destroyed by electronic warfare equipment.

A fire was reported at the oil facility, according to the state news agency RIA Novosti, and two drones were said to have exploded nearby, according to other Russian reports.

While Ukrainian drone attacks on the Russian border regions of Bryansk and Belgorod have become routine, other attacks indicated a more ambitious strategy.

The drone attacks, according to some Russian commentators, were Ukraine's attempt to demonstrate its ability to strike deeply behind the lines, inflame Russian tensions, and rally the Ukrainian public. The raids could be used as a practice run for a bigger, more ambitious attack, according to Russian war bloggers.

Andrei Medvedev, a commentator for Russian state television who is also a deputy speaker of Moscow's city legislature and runs a well-known blog about the war, said that the drone strikes could be a sign of larger attacks on Russia that could come in conjunction with Ukraine's attempt to launch a counteroffensive.

Medvedev stated, "The strikes of exploding drones on targets behind our lines will be part of that offensive," adding that Ukraine might attempt to increase its drones' range.

Russia skeptics called for swift retaliation. Retired Russian army colonel and military commentator Igor Korotchenko called for a severe strike against the Ukrainian presidential office in Kyiv.

Viktor Alksnis, a retired military officer, said that the drone attacks showed how the conflict was getting worse and that Putin didn't do enough to respond.

Also on Tuesday, authorities said that the airspace around St. Petersburg, Russia's second-largest city, was temporarily closed, preventing all flights from and to Pulkovo, the main airport, to leave or arrive. The move was not explained by officials, but some Russian reports said it was started by an unknown drone.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, air defense exercises were being carried out in western Russia.

Russian authorities reported shooting down Ukrainian drones over the annexed Crimea on multiple occasions last year. The Russian military claimed in December that Ukraine targeted two long-range bomber bases deep inside Russian territory with drones.

Putin urged the FSB, Russia's primary security agency, to increase border security with Ukraine.

An air raid alarm disrupted the programming of several radio and television stations in a number of regions on Tuesday, a further development that exacerbated tensions throughout Russia. The announcement was a hoax, according to a statement made online by Russia's Emergency Ministry, "resulting from a hacking of the servers of radio stations and TV channels in some regions of the country."

In the meantime, according to The Associated Press' analysis of satellite images, a Russian warplane in Belarus that Belarusian guerrillas claimed to have targeted appeared to be largely intact.

After what activists from the Belarusian opposition said was an attack on the Machulishchy air base outside the Belarusian capital of Minsk on Sunday, high-resolution images from Planet Labs PBC and Maxar Technologies were released on Tuesday. These images showed the Russian A-50 early warning and control aircraft.

However, damage could be indicated by a discoloration on the aircraft's distinctive, circular rotodome above its fuselage. In earlier photographs of the aircraft at the airbase, that discoloration was not visible. The Maxar image also showed what appeared to be cars in the vicinity of the aircraft.

Ukraine-supporting activists in Belarus claimed that the aircraft had sustained significant damage. Officials from Belarus and Russia did not respond to the claims.

In a Telegram, regional governor Oleksandr Prokudin reported that Russian shelling of the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson on Tuesday resulted in four deaths and five injuries.

According to Gov. Oleh Syniehubov, Russian shelling of the town of Kupiansk in the northeastern Kharkiv region of Ukraine also resulted in the death of a 68-year-old man.

In the eastern regions of Ukraine, where Russia wants control over all four of the provinces it illegally annexed in September, the most intense fighting continued.

The most recent T-90 battle tanks, according to Ukrainian officials, have been deployed by Russian forces in those areas.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the president of Ukraine, gave a video address in which he expressed hope that American industrialists would help the country rebuild after the war and thanked them for their assistance. Zelenskyy said that restoring hundreds of thousands of destroyed sites, including "whole cities, industries, productions," is a "colossal task" for the nation.

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