KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian drones struck two air bases deep inside Russian territory, the Kremlin said Monday, just as Russian forces launched a massive missile strike in Ukraine that hit houses and buildings and killed Shortly before the commoners.
An unprecedented attack in Russia threatened a major escalation in the nine-month war as it struck an airfield for bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons. President Vladimir Putin has threatened to use all means at his disposal to defend his land, a remark that many have interpreted to include nuclear weapons.
Russia has bombed Ukraine on an almost weekly basis in retaliation for another daring attack — the Oct. 8 truck bombing of a key bridge linking its mainland to the Crimean peninsula.
On Monday, Putin tried to show that his country could recover from the embarrassment by driving a car across the partially repaired bridgePutin himself opened the 19-kilometer (12-mile) bridge in 2018 as part of a costly effort to cement his sovereignty over Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014.
Missiles knocked out essential services in several parts of Ukraine in Monday’s retaliatory barrage, part of Moscow’s strategy to inflict more misery as winter looms. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said four people were killed in Monday’s shelling.
Zelensky again showed defiance after the Ukrainian air force claimed to have shot down more than 60 of the 70 missiles, praising workers who immediately tried to restore power.
“Every Russian missile that is shot down is concrete proof that terrorism can be defeated,” Zelensky said in his nighttime speech.
Ukraine said early indications were that Russia fired 38 cruise missiles from its aircraft carrier in the Caspian Sea and the southern Rostov region. In addition, Russia’s Black Sea Fleet also launched 22 caliber cruise missiles, and long-range bombers, fighter jets and missiles also participated.
Electricity provider Ukrenergo said its facilities were hit, triggering some outages, though the prime minister later said power facilities were damaged in only three areas, not as extensive as previous attacks.
In the capital Kyiv, dozens of people quickly packed Zoloti Vorota central metro station after an air raid siren. There was no immediate indication that the city or the surrounding area had been attacked.
Ukrainian media reported explosions in Cherkasy, Krivilikh and Odessa, south of Kyiv. Water, electricity and central heating were cut off in many parts of Odessa, officials said.
“The enemy attacked Ukrainian territory again with missiles!” Kirillo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the Ukrainian presidential office, wrote in a telegram.
In neighboring Moldova, the interior ministry said on its Facebook page that border patrol agents had spotted a rocket in an orchard near the northern city of Bricheni, near the Ukrainian border. Bomb squads went to the scene, but it was unclear when the rocket fell or who fired it.
Elaborating on the attack on the air base, the Russian Ministry of Defense said it shot down two Ukrainian drones. It said three Russian servicemen were killed by debris, four others were injured and two aircraft suffered minor damage.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense said the attacks on the Engel base in the Saratov-on-Volga region and the Dyagilevo base in the Ryazan region of western Russia were part of Ukraine’s efforts to contain Russia’s long-range bomber force.
The Engel base, more than 600 kilometers (370 miles) east of the Ukrainian border, is home to the Tu-95 and Tu-160 nuclear strategic bombers that were involved in attacks on Ukraine. The Dyagilevo air base, about 500 kilometers (more than 300 miles) northeast of the Ukrainian border, has tanker planes used to refuel other aircraft in flight.
The attacks showed the vulnerability of some of Russia’s most strategic military bases, raising questions about the effectiveness of its air defenses if drones could come so close to them.
The ministry did not say where the drones came from, but Russian military blogs said they were likely launched by Ukrainian scouts.
Russian news agencies had earlier reported explosions at both sites, providing slightly different casualty details than those provided by the Defense Ministry.
The Ukrainian Armed Forces released a photo claiming there was blood on the snow under an army vehicle at one of the air bases. The authenticity of the photo cannot be verified.
Zelensky’s adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, fired at the Russians over the drone attack on Engels, but has not claimed responsibility.
“If something is launched into the airspace of other countries, sooner or later the UFO will return to the point of origin,” Podolyak tweeted.
In other developments, Zelensky’s office said three rockets struck his hometown of Krivi Rog in south-central Ukraine, killing a factory worker and wounding three others. In the northeastern Kharkiv region, S-300 missiles struck civilian infrastructure in the town of Kupiansk, killing one person, reports said.
The war that began with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 has displaced millions, killed tens of thousands, and shaken the world economy — driving up prices and reducing supplies of food, fertilizer and fuel to Ukraine and Russia Main export products.
Western nations imposed a $60-a-barrel price cap and ban on Monday Certain types of Russian oil, part of the new measures aimed at intensifying war pressure on Moscow.
The Kremlin rejected the move, which Zelensky criticized as insufficient.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak, who is in charge of energy affairs, warned on Sunday that Russia would not sell its oil to countries trying to impose price caps.
“We will only sell oil and oil products to countries that cooperate with us under market conditions, even if we have to reduce production somewhat,” Novak said.
In another move that went into effect on Monday, the 27-nation European bloc imposed an embargo on Russian seaborne oil.
Russia, the world’s second-largest oil producer, relies on oil and gas to prop up its economy, and Russia is already subject to wide-ranging international sanctions.
Eduardo Castillo in Kyiv, Yuras Karmanau in Tallinn, Estonia, and Andrew Katell in New York contributed.
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