March 31, 2023

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drones fly deep into Russia; Putin orders to tighten the borders

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Drones the Kremlin said were launched by Ukraine have flown deep into Russian territory, including one that came as close as 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Moscow, indicating breaches in Russia’s defenses where President Vladimir Putin ordered by enhancing protection. on the border.

The officials said the drones It caused no casualties and did not cause any significant damage, but the attacks, which took place on Monday night and Tuesday morning, raised questions about Russia’s defense capabilities, more than a year after the country’s massive invasion. from her neighbor.

Ukrainian officials did not immediately claim responsibility, but similarly avoided directly acknowledging responsibility for past strikes and acts of sabotage while emphasizing Ukraine’s right to hit any target in Russia.

Although Putin did not refer to any specific attacks in a speech in the Russian capital, his remarks came hours after drones targeted several regions in southern and western Russia. Authorities closed the airspace over St Petersburg in response to what some reports said was a drone.

Also on Tuesday, several Russian television stations broadcast the missile attack, warning that officials blamed it on a hacking attack.

Drone attacks have targeted areas within Russia along the border with Ukraine and deeper into the country, according to local Russian authorities.

Andrei Vorobyov, governor of the region around the Russian capital, said in an online statement that the drone had crashed near the village of Gubastovo, less than 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Moscow.

Vorobyov said the drone did not cause any damage, but it likely targeted a “civilian infrastructure target”.

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Images of the drone showed it was a small Ukrainian-made model with a range of 800 kilometers (about 500 miles) but no capacity to carry a large charge of explosives.

Local governor Alexander Bogomaz said on Telegram that early Tuesday morning another Ukrainian drone was shot down by Russian forces over the Bryansk region.

Local authorities said three drones also targeted Russia’s Belgorod region on Monday night, with one flying through the window of an apartment in the capital of the same name. The governor of the region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said that the drones caused minor damage to buildings and cars.

The Russian Defense Ministry said Ukraine had used drones to attack facilities in the Krasnodar region and neighboring Adygea. The drones were shot down by electronic warfare assets, she said, adding that one crashed in a field while another diverted from its flight path and missed an infrastructure facility it was supposed to attack.

The Russian state news agency, Novosti, reported that a fire had broken out at the oil facility, and some other Russian reports said that two drones exploded nearby.

While Ukrainian drone strikes on Russia’s border regions of Bryansk and Belgorod have become a regular occurrence, other strikes mirrored more ambitious efforts.

Some Russian commentators described the drone attacks as an attempt by Ukraine to demonstrate its ability to strike deep behind the lines, stir up tensions in Russia and galvanize Ukrainian public opinion. Some Russian war bloggers described the raids as a possible rehearsal for a larger, more ambitious attack.

Russia hawks have called for a strong retaliation. Igor Korotchenko, a retired Russian army colonel turned military commentator, has called for a punitive strike at Ukraine’s presidential office in Kiev.

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Another retired military officer, Victor Alexis, noted that the drone attacks represented a widening of the conflict and criticized Putin for failing to deliver a forceful response.

Also on Tuesday, authorities reported temporarily closing the airspace around St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city, halting all departures and arrivals at the city’s main Pulkovo Airport. It did not give a reason for the move, but some Russian reports claimed that the move was caused by an unidentified drone.

The Russian Defense Ministry said it was conducting air defense exercises in western Russia.

In the past year, Russian authorities have repeatedly reported shooting down Ukrainian drones over Crimea. In December, the Russian military said Ukraine had used drones to hit two long-range bomber bases deep into Russian lands.

Speaking at Russia’s main security agency, the FSB, Putin urged the agency to tighten security at Ukraine’s borders.

In another development that fueled tensions across Russia on Tuesday, an air raid alert system halted the programming of several television channels and radio stations in several regions. Russia’s Emergencies Ministry said in an online statement that the advertisement was a hoax “resulting from hacking into the servers of radio stations and television channels in some regions of the country”.

Meanwhile, satellite imagery analyzed by the Associated Press appeared to show a Russian warplane in Belarus that Belarusian guerrilla fighters claimed they targeted as largely intact.

High-resolution images captured by Planet Labs PBC on Tuesday showed no immediate signs of damage to the Russian A-50 early warning and control aircraft after what Belarusian opposition activists described as an attack on Machulyshi air base Sunday outside the Belarusian capital Minsk.

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Belarusian activists supporting Ukraine claimed that the plane was badly damaged, but Russian and Belarusian officials have not commented on the claims.

In Ukraine, four people were killed and five others were injured, on Tuesday, in the renewed Russian bombing of the city of Kherson in southern Ukraine, according to what the governor of the region, Oleksandr Prokudin, reported in a telegram.

Gov. Oleh Sinyhopov said a 68-year-old man was also killed when Russian forces bombed the town of Kobyansk in Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region.

The fiercest fighting continues in the eastern regions of Ukraine, where Russia wants to take control of all four provinces it illegally annexed in September.

Ukrainian officials said that Russian forces have deployed additional forces and equipment, including the latest T-90 combat tanks, to those areas.

In a video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked American industrialists for their support of Ukraine and expressed hope for their support in rebuilding the country after the war. Zelensky noted that the country faces an “enormous task” of restoring hundreds of thousands of damaged sites, including “whole cities, industries, and production processes.”

___ Associated Press writer Jon Gambrell contributed to this report from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.


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