Explosions hit two Russian air bases used by heavy bombers to attack Ukraine’s power grid, in a pair of strikes on the morning of Monday, Dec. 5, with local social media quick to blame kamikaze drones.
Video footage from towns near the Engels air force base, in Russia’s central Saratov Region, showed a massive flash lighting up the sky above the facility, followed by a blast wave loud enough to set off car alarms at least 10 km. from the explosion.
Located on the outskirts of the city of Saratov, Engels is one of the Kremlin’s major strategic bomber operations bases, and the sole operating location for the Tu-160 strategic bomber.
The Kremlin has launched repeated strikes from Engels using Tu-160 and Tu-95 bombers since early October to fire as many as 80 cruise missiles in a single day, at Ukraine’s power grid and heating infrastructure.
The pro-Russia information platform Readovka reported that a single drone hit the base in the early hours of the morning and blew up, damaging two Tu-95 bombers and injuring two persons.
Other Russian social media confirmed the Engels strike. The air base is some 700 km. from Ukraine-controlled territory, well out of the range of both missiles and drones known to be operated by the Ukrainian military.
Roman Busargin, Saratov Region governor, confirmed in a public statement that an explosion had taken place in Engels. “I want to assure you…there are no reasons to worry. No part of the civilian infrastructure has suffered damage.”
According to Readovka and other military-linked social media, a second explosion hit the Dyagilevo air base in Russia’s Ryazan Region, killing three people and destroying a fuel vehicle.
The air base is some 600 km. from Ukraine-controlled territory, well out of the range of both missiles and drones known to be operated by the Ukrainian military.
Yuriy Ihnat, Ukraine’s senior air force spokesman, in a midday statement confirmed two Russian bombers at Engels air base had been damaged, and claimed that Russian service personnel were killed.
He neither confirmed nor denied the Ukrainian military’s responsibility for the explosion.
Russian President Vladimir Putin “was informed about the attacks”, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to Monday state media reports. Official Russian news platforms said both strikes were carried out by Ukrainian drones.
The attacks came against the background of nearly two weeks of predictions by military observers alike that the Kremlin was preparing a new round of missile strikes against Ukraine’s energy and heating infrastructure.
The last wave of Russian missiles, launched on Nov. 23 by strategic bombers based at Engels, devastated Ukraine’s power grid and left tens of millions of civilians without electricity for up to three days. Ukrainian media has since then closely followed activity at Engels and other Russian strategic bomber bases.
Most Ukrainian news sites carried reports on Friday, Dec. 2, that Russia had concentrated as many as 20 strategic bombers at Engels air base and was planning to launch more strikes in 48-72 hours.
Anton Herashchenko, a Ukrainian Interior Ministry advisor and spokesman, said Ukraine’s military carried out the strikes.
Some Russian posters were livid at a Russian air defense command seemingly unable to protect a key component of the Kremlin’s nuclear deterrence force, from being hit by a low-cost drone.
“They (the West) are laughing. Really, can you imagine how loud the laughter is in the military staffs in America?”, wrote military blogger Sinyaya Z Boroda. “The strategic nuclear forces of Russia can be bashed by cheap drones. The strategic nuclear forces of Russia aren’t protected by anything. The strategic nuclear forces of Russia are helpless.”
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