A day after an unprecedented attack by Kiev on bases of bombers used by Russia in the campaign against Ukraine, a drone hit a fuel depot at an airfield near Kursk, 175 km from the Ukrainian border.
The incident took place early this Tuesday (6), Monday night in Brazil. “There were no casualties, and the fire is localized,” Governor Roman Starovoit said in Telegram.
The target was the Khalino air base, from where Su-30SM multi-role fighters depart for action in the neighboring country. There is no record of damage to aircraft, but the symbolic impact of the action is great, considering the context of the week.
Due to the distance from the border, more conventional drones may have been used or launched from inside Russian territory by infiltrators. In Monday’s action, however, the targets were more than 500 km from Ukraine and, according to Russia, were hit by an old Soviet model.
This is the Tu-141 drone, a relic of the Ukrainian arsenal. More like a cruise missile, it has rudimentary maneuvering capabilities and was initially designed for photo reconnaissance, but can carry explosives. At the start of the war, one accidentally flew through Hungary and Romania before crashing in Croatia.
The fact that the bolide, which has a maximum range of 1,000 km, passed through Russian air defenses unscathed, at least until it reached the bases, is a source of embarrassment for Moscow. The Ministry of Defense claims that it shot down the two models used, but that debris hit two planes and killed three soldiers on the ground.
The bases targeted in the second house strategic bombers, and one of them, the Engels-2, in Saratov, is the heart of Russia’s nuclear strike force with planes, containing a bunker with atomic bombs. There are all the supersonic Tu-160s and part of the Tu-95 turboprop fleet.
The attack was aimed at intimidating the Russians before they put bombers in the air for another wave of cruise missiles launched from their airspace against the country’s civilian and military infrastructure. It didn’t work, and about 70 shells were fired at Ukraine.
This morning, there was a new wave, focused on the Zaporizhia region, in the south, which was illegally annexed by Moscow in September, but whose northern strip of territory was never conquered by the Russians. In Donetsk, capital of the homonymous region also absorbed by Moscow, Ukrainian forces bombed a market.
Kiev does not publicly acknowledge the attacks in Russia, but it does not deny them either, with members of Volodymyr Zelensky’s government mocking posts and TV comments about the dangers of smoking cigarettes on nuclear-armed bases.
In Washington, American allies went public, in the figure of Ned Price, spokesman for the Department of State, saying that the US does not encourage attacks from Kiev beyond its territory and that the weapons supplied so far are for defense.
In a parallel development, Japan sharply criticized Russia for having installed Bastion coastal defense systems in the Kuril Islands, part of which the Soviets took from the Japanese at the end of World War II in 1945.
Until March there was a discussion about the status of the archipelago between Moscow and Tokyo, but this was suspended by Japanese support for the Western sanctions regime against Russia due to the Ukraine War.
Japan’s government said it was “closely monitoring” what it called escalating Russian military activities in the East. Vladimir Putin’s main ally is China, Tokyo’s geopolitical rival, which in turn has increased assertiveness in the field of defense and promises to double spending in the sector in five years.