By Jeff Dunetz and Andrew West,
When Russian troops began spilling into Ukraine back in February, the global consensus seemed to be that Kyiv would fall rather quickly beneath the weight of this neighboring military superpower. And, throughout the next 10 months, Ukraine has consistently and definitively squashed that idea, beating the Russian military back to numerous retreats and attempted mutinies.
Far from the front lines of the conflict, Russian officials have found themselves stunned again, this time after several explosions rocked several vital airbases.
Explosions have rocked two Russian airbases far from the frontlines as Kyiv appeared to launch a pre-emptive strike on bombers that the Kremlin has used to try to cripple the Ukrainian electrical grid.
The Russian defence ministry confirmed the attacks on Monday, claiming two of its warplanes had been damaged when it intercepted two Ukrainian drones. For Kyiv the strike represented an unprecedented operation deep inside Russia to disrupt the Kremlin strategy of provoking a humanitarian catastrophe in Ukraine on the verge of winter.
Russian media reports and video posted to social media indicated that an explosion occurred early on Monday morning at the Engels-2 airbase in Russia’s Saratov region.
The Engels attack may have been a special way to answer Putin’s nuclear threats. “The Engels air base houses nuclear-capable bombers and is located more than 600 kilometers (more than 370 miles) east of the border with Ukraine.”
Another explosion took place at the Dyagilevo military airbase near Ryazan, a city less than 150 miles from Moscow. Three people were killed and five wounded after a fuel truck exploded, Russian state media reported. That base also hosts Tu-95 long-range bombers.
The attacks showed the vulnerability of some of Russia’s most strategic military sites, raising questions about the effectiveness of their air defenses if drones could come so close to them.