Reports show that the attack targeted the Soltsy military airport in Novgorod, a region that is more than 700 miles from Ukraine. The Russian Ministry of Defense said a "helicopter-style" drone damaged a warplane, calling it a "terrorist attack" by the "Kyiv regime." While there were no injuries, it caused a fire in the airfield's parking lot that was quickly extinguished.
According to the ministry, only one warplane was damaged during the attack. It was moved to an airfield in the city of Murmansk to undergo repairs. However, a pro-Ukrainian Telegram channel has reported that two Tu-22M3 supersonic bombers were damaged during the strike. (Related: PROXY WAR: RFK Jr. says the West provoked Putin to invade Ukraine.)
The Soltsy airfield serves as a base for the Tupolev Tu-22M3 bombers that Russia has used to attack Ukraine. It was first deployed by Moscow during the war with Ukraine in "carpet-bombing" operations targeting the city of Mariupol.
The TU-22M3 has an operational range of nearly 7,000 kilometers (4,350 miles), meaning it can target all of Europe. It can not only drop conventional explosives but can also carry Kh-15 nuclear or anti-radar missiles and Kh-22 long-range naval strike missiles.
According to national security expert Mark Episkopos, the Tu-22M3 is one of "the most recognizable symbols of Russian airpower." It has become infamous over its three decades of use as "an effective and eminently reliable strategic bomber."
Other high-profile targets have been damaged or outright destroyed by Ukrainian drone strikes, including the Moskva cruiser, the flagship of Russia's Black Sea fleet, which was sunk in 2022. Attacks were also launched at the Kerch bridge linking Crimea to Russia, a personal project of Putin that has been damaged twice.
Ukrainian drone strikes within Russia have increased within the last few months, with many of the attacks targeting Moscow. To date, there has been no official comment from the government in Kyiv on the destruction of the jets. The authorities are wary of commenting on sophisticated sabotage operations or angering any Western allies who are more comfortable with supporting defensive military operations.
However, senior officials don't shy away from talking about links to the attacks. For example, Andriy Yusov, the deputy head of Ukraine's military intelligence service, openly ridiculed Russia's attempts to minimize the destruction of the jets and other drone attacks.
On national TV, Yusov joked that it "was probably just some big pigeons that dropped something on those Tu-22M3 aircraft." He mockingly added that there were no explosions in Moscow and that "their airports and flights are probably operating according to schedule," with everything "going according to plan."
Other reports have revealed that Ukrainian drones have damaged at least five planes within the last few weeks. Ukraine's Main Directorate of Intelligence (GUR) said two other aircraft were damaged aside from the Tu-22M3. Days later, two bomber planes in the Russian city of Kaluga were damaged after an attack by "drones controlled by GUR saboteurs."
In August, one attack disrupted flights in and out of the capital and injured two people after it was shot down by Russian air defenses. The incident caused injuries when parts of the Ukrainian drone fell on a house in the Moscow region, reported the regional governor.
Meanwhile, arrivals and departures from Moscow’s four main airports – Vnukovo, Domodedovo, Sheremetyevo and Zhukovsky – were restricted. The delays disrupted 45 passenger planes and two cargo planes, according to the Russian aviation authority.
The governor of Kaluga region, located south of Moscow, claimed that a drone attack had also been repelled in the area.
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