Russia reports Ukrainian drone strikes

Russia reports Ukrainian drone strikes on targets deep inside its territory and a border incursion.



March 12, 2024 - 3:00 PM

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Photo by Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Images/TNS

(AP) — Ukrainian long-range drones smashed into two oil facilities deep inside Russia on Tuesday, officials said, while an armed incursion claimed by Ukraine-based Russian opponents of the Kremlin unnerved a border region just days before Russia’s presidential election.

The attack by waves of drones across eight regions of Russia displayed Kyiv’s expanding technological capacity as the war extends into its third year. The cross-border ground assault also weakened President Vladimir Putin’s argument that life in Russia has been unaffected by the war, though he remains all but certain to win another six-year term after eliminating all opposition.

The reports of border fighting were murky, and it was impossible to ascertain with any certainty what was unfolding in Russia’s Kursk and Belgorod regions. Cross-border attacks in the area have occurred sporadically since the war began and have been the subject of claims and counterclaims, as well as disinformation and propaganda.

Soldiers who Kyiv officials say are Russian volunteers fighting for Ukraine claimed to have crossed the border. The Freedom of Russia Legion, the Russian Volunteer Corps and the Siberian Battalion released statements and videos on social media claiming to show them on Russian territory. They said they wanted “a Russia liberated from Putin’s dictatorship.”

The authenticity of the videos couldn’t be independently verified.

Fighters coming out of Ukraine attempted to reach the town of Tetkino, which lies close to the border, according to the governor of Russia’s Kursk region, Roman Starovoit. He said Tetkino was being shelled.

“There was an attempt by a sabotage and reconnaissance group to break through. There was a shooting battle, but there was no breakthrough,” he said in a video message on Telegram.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the Tetkino attacks were driven back, but provided no further details.

In May, Russia alleged that dozens of Ukrainian militants crossed into one of its border towns in the Belgorod region, striking targets and forcing an evacuation, before more than 70 of the attackers were killed or pushed back by what the authorities termed a counterterrorism operation. Ukrainian officials have denied any link with the group.

Meanwhile, one Ukrainian drone struck and set ablaze an oil refinery in the Nizhny Novgorod region, according to regional governor Gleb Nikitin. That region is located some about 775 kilometers (480 miles) from the Ukraine border.

In another deep strike, a drone was shot down in the Moscow region, Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin said. Though it was brought down well south of the city center, the drone was close to Zhukovsky Airport, one of Mocow’s four international airports.

Another drone hit an oil depot in Oryol, 116 kilometers (95 miles) from Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said last year that his country had developed a weapon that hit a target 700 kilometers (400 miles) away, in an apparent reference to drones.

The Russian Defense Ministry said Ukrainian drones were also intercepted Tuesday over the Belgorod, Bryansk, Kursk, Leningrad and Tula regions of Russia.