Putin orders Ukraine border to be tightened as drone strikes Russia

KYIV, Ukraine — Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the border with Ukraine to be tightened on Tuesday after several drones struck inside Russia, including one that crashed just 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Moscow. in an alarming development for Russia’s defenses.

The drones caused no injuries but raised questions about the Kremlin’s security more than a year after Russia’s full-scale invasion of its neighbour.

Moscow blamed Kiev for the attacks. Ukrainian officials did not immediately claim responsibility, but they also avoided taking direct responsibility for past attacks and sabotage, and stressed Ukraine’s right to strike any target in Russia. .

Although Putin did not mention any specific attacks during his speech in the Russian capital, his comments came hours after drones targeted several areas in the south. 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 missile attack warnings that officials blamed on a hacker attack.

According to local Russian authorities, the drone attacks on Monday night and Tuesday morning targeted areas inside Russia along the border with Ukraine and deeper into the country.

Andrei Vorobyov, governor of the region around the Russian capital, said in an online statement that a drone had crashed near the village of Gubastovo, 100 kilometers from Moscow.

Vorobyov said the drone did not cause any damage, but it was capable of targeting “a civilian infrastructure object”.

Images of the drone show it to be a Ukrainian-made model with a reported range of up to 800 km (nearly 500 miles) but not capable of carrying large amounts of explosives.

Russian forces early Tuesday morning shot down a Ukrainian drone over the Bryansk region, local Governor Aleksandr Bogomaz said in a Telegram post.

Three drones also targeted Russia’s Belgorod region on Monday night, with one flying through the window of an apartment in its eponymous capital, local authorities reported. Regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said the drone had caused minor damage to buildings and cars.

The Russian Defense Ministry said Ukraine used drones to attack facilities in the Krasnodar region and the vicinity of Adygea. It said the drones were downed by electronic warfare devices, adding that one of them crashed in a field and another diverged from its flight path and missed an opportunity. infrastructure it is supposed to attack.

While Ukrainian drone strikes on Russia’s Bryansk and Belgorod border regions are not unusual, attacks on the Krasnodar and Adygea regions further south are very remarkable.

Russia’s RIA Novosti agency reported that a fire broke out at an oil depot in Russia’s Krasnodar region on Monday. Russian Telegram channels claimed that two drones exploded near the depot.

Some Russian commentators have described the drone strikes as an attempt by Ukraine to show off its ability to strike areas deep within the demarcation line, inflame tensions in Russia and rally the public. Ukraine. Some Russian war bloggers describe the attacks as possibly a rehearsal for a larger, more ambitious offensive.

Last year, Russian authorities repeatedly announced that they shot down Ukrainian drones over the annexed Crimea. In December, the Russian military said Ukraine had used drones to attack two bases for long-range bombers deep inside Russian territory.

Separately, the St. Petersburg — Russia’s second-largest city about 1,300 kilometers north of the border with Ukraine — said early Tuesday that it was temporarily suspending all departures and arrivals at the city’s main airport, Pulkovo. It did not give a reason for the move.

A few hours earlier, unconfirmed reports on the Russian social network Telegram mentioned that the airspace of St. Petersburg was closed and Russian warplanes flew over. It is unclear if this is related to the drone attacks in southern Russia.

The Russian military says its air defenses in western Russia have conducted exercises to “detect, intercept and identify” enemy targets in their airspace, and in coordination with the Russian military. civil air traffic services in an emergency.

The Russian Ministry of Defense did not specifically mention St. Petersburg, but their statement appears to be designed to explain the temporary closure of the airspace.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on the situation in St. Petersburg, urged reporters to wait for details from the country’s aviation or military authorities. He noted that Putin has “complete information” about the situation.

Speaking at Russia’s main security agency, the FSB, Putin called on the agency to tighten security on Ukraine’s border.

Russian media reported on Tuesday that an air raid alarm had disrupted the programming of several television and radio channels in several regions of Russia.

Footage posted by several news sites shows a TV showing a yellow sign with a person heading to a bomb shelter, with a female voice repeating: “Attention! Air raid alert. Everyone should go to shelters immediately.”

Russia’s Emergencies Ministry said in an online statement that the announcement was a hoax “resulting from the attack on the servers of radio stations and TV channels in some regions of the country.” “.

In another development, four people were killed and five others injured on Tuesday as a result of fresh Russian shelling on the city of Kherson, southern Ukraine, regional governor Oleksandr Prokudin said in a Telegram.

Governor Oleh Syniehubov said a 68-year-old man was also killed when Russian forces shelled Kupiansk, a town in the Kharkiv region of northeastern Ukraine.

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

Ukrainian officials say Russian forces have deployed additional troops and equipment, including modern T-90 tanks, in those areas.

Meanwhile, satellite photos analyzed by the AP news agency appear to show a Beriev A-50 early warning aircraft parked at a Belarusian airbase shortly before an alleged attack. of the guerrillas there.

Images from Planet Labs PBC show the A-50, a late Soviet aircraft known for its distinctive rotating dome above the fuselage, parked on the apron of Machulishchy Air Base near Minsk, capital of Belarus, on February 19.

A lower resolution image taken on February 23 shows a similarly shaped plane still parked there, although dense cloud cover has hindered any images since.

The Belarusian opposition organization BYPOL claimed that guerrillas damaged the A-50 during an attack on Sunday.

The Associated Press was unable to independently confirm the claimed attack, which neither Belarus nor Russia have yet acknowledged.

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


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