Ukraine accused Russia of destroying homes in the southeast and knocking out power in many areas with a new volley of missiles on Monday, while Moscow said Ukrainian drones had attacked two air bases deep inside Russia hundreds of kilometres from the front lines.
A new missile barrage had been anticipated in Ukraine for days, and it took place just as emergency blackouts were due to end, with previous damage repaired. The strikes plunged parts of Ukraine back into freezing darkness with temperatures now firmly below zero Celsius (32 Fahrenheit).
At least four people were killed in the Russian attacks, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said, adding that most of some 70 missiles were shot down. Energy workers had already begun work on restoring power supplies, he said.
Russia’s defence ministry said Ukrainian drones attacked two air bases at Ryazan and Saratov in south-central Russia, killing three servicemen and wounding four, with two aircraft damaged by fragments of the drones when they were shot down.
Ukraine did not directly claim responsibility for the attacks. If it was behind them, they would be the deepest attacks inside the Russian heartland since Moscow invaded Ukraine on February 24.
One of the targets, the Engels airbase near the city of Saratov, approximately 730km (450 miles) southeast of Moscow, houses bomber planes belonging to Russia’s strategic nuclear forces.
“The Kyiv regime, in order to disable Russian long-range aircraft, made attempts to strike with Soviet-made unmanned jet aerial vehicles at the military airfields Dyagilevo, in the Ryazan region, and Engels, in the Saratov region,” the Russian defence ministry said.
It said the drones, flying at low altitudes, were intercepted by air defences and shot down. The deaths were reported on the Ryazan base, 185km (115 miles) southeast of Moscow.
The Russian defence ministry called the drone strikes a “terrorist” act aimed at disrupting its long-range aviation.
Despite that, the ministry said, Russia responded with a “massive strike on the military control system and related objects of the defences complex, communication centres, energy and military units of Ukraine with high-precision air- and sea-based weapons” in which it said all 17 designated targets were hit.