Ukraine using drones to strike targets deep within Russia, analysts say

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One of the main operating bases for Russia’s strategic bomber fleet was attacked on Dec. 26 in an apparent drone strike. British military officials said it was the second such attack on the Engels air base within the past three weeks.

The base is located near the Russian city of Saratov, 500 miles southeast of Moscow.

The drone was shot down by local air defense forces, Roman Busargin, the regional governor, wrote on his Telegram social media page.

“As a result of falling fragments, the fence of a private house, a car and a garage were damaged,” Mr. Busargin said. “There were no other damages. People were not hurt.”

A similar attack occurred on Dec. 5 when explosions rocked the air base after a drone strike on bombers that the Kremlin has used in its attempt to cripple Ukraine’s power grid.

According to media reports, at least one Tu-95 was damaged in the Dec. 5 strike. It was the type of plane that has taken part in Russian missile strikes against Ukraine.

Russia has traditionally given a high priority to maintaining advanced ground-based air defenses, but U.K. military intelligence officials contend the Kremlin is struggling to counter air threats deep inside Russia.

“One challenge for Russia is probably the exceptional demand on its fleet of modern, medium-range air defense systems, such as the SA-22 Pantsir, which would typically be expected to take a major role in countering unmanned aerial vehicles,” British military officials said Thursday on their Twitter page.

Russian air defense systems are required in large numbers to protect military headquarters units near the front line in Ukraine, U.K. officials said.

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