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A drone attack attributed to Ukraine killed three people on Monday on a strategic Russian military base, already targeted earlier this month. If these strikes, far from the front, do not change the nature of the conflict for the moment, they allow the Ukrainians to maintain pressure on Moscow, forced to mobilize significant resources to protect its territory.
Ukraine strikes back: subjected to a deluge of fire since the beginning of the Russian invasion, kyiv has shown in recent weeks its ability to strike Russian territory. On Monday, December 26, Moscow accused Ukraine of launching a drone against the Engels air base, located nearly 600 kilometers from the front. An attack that comes less than a month after another incursion against this same installation.
The main base of operations for Western Russia’s long-range air force and home to some thirty nuclear-capable bombers, Engels is a target of choice for the Ukrainian army and bears witness to a astonishing facility of the Ukrainians to strike in depth the Russian territory.
According to Russian news agencies, the flying machine was shot down by anti-aircraft defenses but without damaging the planes parked on the tarmac. However, debris from the aircraft contributed to the deaths of three base technicians. “It would rather be the drone itself that exploded,” said France 24 Michel Olhagaray, former commander of the naval school.
Doubts also remain about the absence of damage. In reality, several Russian army aircraft would have been affected, assures the media The War Zone, according to which certain Russian bases have recently decided to disperse their planes to reduce the risk of destruction.
As usual, kyiv has made no official comment on these recent incidents, presumably to avoid giving the Russians a pretext for further escalation. Some statements, however, leave little doubt about Ukraine’s involvement. “If the Russians thought the war wouldn’t affect the rear, they were wrong,” Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuri Ignat said in an interview with the Kyiv Independent on Monday. .
If the military record is relatively limited, Ukraine thus sends a strong message to the Russian authorities and to its population by proving that its territory is far from safe. Moreover, by flying a drone for the second time over several hundred kilometers in the Russian sky, kyiv exposes the flaws in Moscow’s anti-aircraft defense.
>> To read on France 24.com: These long-distance military drones that are approaching Moscow
According to military experts, the Ukrainians may have retrofitted Tupolev Tu-141s, a bulky Soviet reconnaissance aircraft, to carry out these daring attacks. “They were able to be retrofitted and modified by Ukrainian engineers to carry weapons and allow them to fly up to 1,000 km undetected,” says Oleh Chernysh, drone expert with the BBC Ukraine Service.
“A quite remarkable tactic”, underlines Michel Olhagaray, according to whom the Ukrainians managed with weak means to counter the Russians to mobilize significant resources far from the front. “The Ukrainians pose a threat to these regions. With two drones, they force the mobilization of thousands of personnel day and night and a whole network of radars. You now have a whole region located about 600 km from the border which is almost in a war zone”, assures the expert on military matters.
At the end of October, Ukrainian drones had also targeted Russian installations in Sevastopol Bay, in Crimea, territory illegally annexed by Russia in 2014.
Building on these successes, Ukraine may be tempted to continue down this path and conduct long-range attacks on a larger scale. “Perhaps there is no doubt that kyiv will do its utmost to acquire more weapons capable of hitting targets behind Russian lines. The Ukrainian army should soon develop drones similar to the Shahed-136 used by Russia,” Russian media Meduza said after the December 6 attack.
>> See also: Kamikazes, spies or rescuers: drones, key players in the war in Ukraine
The Ukrainians will have to rely on their own equipment to carry out this type of long-range attack. Westerners in fact refuse that the weapons delivered to Ukraine be used to strike Russian territory for fear of an escalation in the conflict.
The Wall Street Journal revealed earlier this month that the United States had modified its HIMARS rocket launchers to prevent them from firing long-range munitions into Russian territory. “We do not encourage Ukraine to strike beyond its borders,” the US State Department said in early December.