Drone strikes in Russia What are their targets and how

Drone strikes in Russia: What are their targets and how they have become a key tool for Ukraine BBC News World

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Images published on the Internet of the Tupolev Tu-22M allegedly attacked by drones at the Soltsy-2 airfield.

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Airports, train stations, naval bases, communications antennas, fuel depots or commercial areas.

Drone attacks in Russia and Moscow-controlled territory have increased in 2023 until recorded So far this year there have been more than 160. Some, like the one that hit an airport in the Russian city of Pskov this Wednesday, more than 600 kilometers from the border with Ukraine.

Although Kiev rarely comments on attacks on Russian territory, Ukraine is believed to have increasingly used explosive drones against Russia in recent weeks as part of its attacks Counter-offensive strategyThis affected Moscow’s ability to maintain supplies to its troops.

In the last few hours, Ukrainian military intelligence even claimed responsibility for the drone attack on the Russian base in Pskov last Tuesday.

In a war where aviation is not as relevant as in other conflicts, drones have become a fundamental tool of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. They are your eyes on the front lines, your intelligence and propaganda agents, your vigilantes.

They played a very prominent role at the beginning of the conflict, for example when they managed to stop the 40 kilometer long convoy on the way to Kiev. And its effects are increasingly being felt on Russian territory.

“It’s drones extremely important for Ukraine“, summarizes political scientist Sergej Sumlenny, expert on Eastern Europe and founder of the European Resilience Initiative Center (ERIC), for BBC Mundo.

In the latest wave of attacks, two military cargo planes, a fuel depot and a microelectronics factory were attacked by drones in different parts of the country.

Last week, two suspected drone strikes hit Moscow’s main business district, hitting a skyscraper under construction on August 23 and the Expo Center exhibition complex a few days earlier. Around the same time, three people were killed in a suspected drone strike in the border region of Belgorod and five others were injured in the attack on a train station in the Kursk region a few days earlier, according to Russian officials.

The recent drone strikes were also one of the flagships of Russian aviation Tupolev Tu-22M supersonic bomber. One of those planes, capable of flying at twice the speed of sound, was hit at an air base south of St. Petersburg last week, according to images confirmed by the BBC.

How many drone attacks have there been in Russia?

Of the more than 160 attacks detected in Russia and Moscow-controlled areas, most were concentrated, according to Russian media monitored by BBC Verify Bryansk and Belgorod regionsnear the western border with Ukraine, as well as in Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.

In addition, there were about a dozen maritime drone strikes on Russian targets in the Black Sea, including naval bases and the Crimean Bridge.

The peninsula experienced the largest attack by unmanned aircraft on August 25, when a total of 42 drones simultaneously struck a military base in the area.

The Moscow regionwhich is about 450 kilometers from the border with Ukraine, has also become a drone target.

One of them, which crashed about 100 kilometers from the capital, appeared to correspond to a UJ-22, a type of drone made in Ukraine that has a range of 800 kilometers in autonomous flight.

So far, Kiev has not claimed responsibility for these attacks. However, the president Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly stated that attacks on Russian territory are an “inevitable, natural and absolutely fair process.”

Image copyrightAnton Gerashchenko


Image of the device that crashed about 100 kilometers from Moscow, which appears to be a UJ-22 drone made in Ukraine.

What are the goals of these drones?

According to analysts consulted by BBC Mundo, reaching Russian soil has a double aim.

On the one hand, “these attacks Memory of the Russian people that this war is not something that is far from their homeland and has nothing to do with them,” explains Ulrike Franke from the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).

This was particularly the case with the attacks around Moscow, notes Franke. For example, in May, two drones managed to reach the Kremlin and, although they did not cause major material damage, they managed to break the image of security and invincibility projected by the Russian government.

In a way, “the message these drones are sending is: The war is here, your capital is not safe and Putin is weakadds Sumlenny.

But beyond the psychological impact that attacks have, there is also a disruptive component to this strategy.

“For example, there is also a search paralyze Russian air traffic“The completely centralized politics in Moscow slows down decision-making, which happens, for example, when the government district of the capital is attacked and civil servants have to leave their offices,” says the political scientist.

On July 4th, flights from Vnukovo International Airport in Moscow had to be diverted following a drone attack. Weeks later, the airfield had to be closed for a few days due to new attacks.

The aim of these drones was also Oil facilities and energy infrastructure.

The BBC managed to identify at least nine drone attacks on oil depots. One of them occurred in Sevastopol, the most populous city on the Crimean peninsula, which was attacked on April 29 and several of its fuel tanks were destroyed.

A month later, an oil refinery was burned down in the Krasnodar region of southern Russia, about 200 kilometers from the border with Crimea. The regional governor said it was likely caused by a drone.

For Layla Guest, analyst at security consultancy Sibylline, “it is very likely that Ukrainian forces will prioritize attacks on oil refineries, as well as Russian railway and logistics infrastructure in general, to cause maximum disruption,” he told BBC Verify.

Although the drones They also had military objectives.

At least ten Russian soldiers were injured in an alleged drone attack on a military training camp in the Voronezh region on May 10. In December last year, another attack hit an air base 600 kilometers northeast of the border with Ukraine, causing three deaths, according to the Russian army.

Image source: Portal


Drones have managed to reach Moscow’s financial district.

What type of drones are used?

Since the beginning of the war, Ukraine has used different drone systems in its operations, performing very different functions, from surveillance and terrain reconnaissance, as is the case with commercial drones, to attacking specific targets with kamikaze drones.

Some seem Toys for childrenothers are huge military aircraft that can reach a wingspan of 15 meters.

One of the most successful for the Ukrainian armed forces was the Bayraktar TB2Turkish production, which, according to Franke, were particularly important at the beginning of the war.

“Ukraine has made extensive use of various drones, and the Bayraktar TB2 drone proved to be the real star of the air war for Ukraine, inflicting heavy losses on Russian forces, some of which were recorded and distributed online,” he notes . BBC confirms David Cenciotti, editor of the Aviationist blog.

But Ukraine has also expanded its local production of drones, in some cases even with it very innovative systems.

“The Ukrainian drone industry is quite impressive, it has managed to develop and produce drones on its own over the last year and a half, and as can be seen from the published images, these are most likely the systems used to attack Russia.” “Made in Ukraine,” says Ulrike Franke.

Recently, the Minister of Digital Transformation of Ukraine Mikhail Fyodorov boasted about a Ukrainian drone, the so-called R18, which he said “can fly from Kiev to Moscow and vice versa.”

Another Ukrainian creation, whose production began in 2022, is the drone “Beaver” (“Bober” in Ukrainian, meaning “beaver”) with a range of about 1,000 kilometers, according to the Kyiv Post.

This drone model appears to be responsible for the early August attack on Moscow’s financial district, which hit the Russian Ministry of Economy building.

This state production is supported by a amateur army who came together after the invasion of Crimea in 2014 and began to develop their own models.

Ultimately, explains the ECFR researcher, “the war in Ukraine is a war of the entire nation, Ukraine is fighting for its survival, so everyone is involved, including on the drone front.”

Good examples of this are the so-called First Person View (FPV)Remote Vision Piloting), which are manufactured in Ukraine and used as kamikaze drones.

“They are incredibly cheap, They can be made for less than $500 They are capable of carrying between one kilo and one and a half kilos of explosives, which can be used as small ammunition. They fly directly into a building or moving vehicle and can destroy any unarmored target such as infantry, trucks or Russian antennas. ” explains Sergei Sumlenny.

According to the analyst, FPV drones are “practically like smart ammunition, but cost 1% of the price of high-precision artillery shells.”

These hobby groups raise money to buy electronic components on digital stores like Ebay or Amazon, Sumlenny points out They produce the remaining parts with 3D printersand then donate them to the army, whose operators send them against the desired target using virtual reality glasses.

Image source: EPA-EFE


In the latest wave of attacks, drones managed to reach Pskov airfield, about 600 kilometers from the Ukrainian border.

Where are the attacks against Russia launched from?

So far, Kiev has not confirmed that the attacks against Russia or Moscow-controlled areas were carried out by its army or that the drones came from Ukrainian soil.

“Although Ukraine has not confirmed that its forces carried out the attacks [contra Moscú]“I think that the pre-emptive attacks we saw last year prove that Ukraine is capable of launching long-range attacks of this kind from Ukrainian territory,” Cenciotti said.

As for range, experts say drones launched from Ukraine could penetrate deep into Russian territory and reach Moscow, which is about 450 kilometers from the border.

But Experts have different opinions whether the attacks came from Ukraine or Russian territory.

For Sergei Sumlenny, many of these attacks, especially those that took place in the Moscow region or far from the Ukrainian border, “had to be carried out from Russian territory by Ukrainians or special forces of the Ukrainian army.”

This is what the founder of ERIC claims technical difficulties in balancing weights and explosivesas well as the fuel needed to reach long distances make it less likely that the drones have left Ukraine.

Drone specialist Steve Wright from the University of the West of England actually believes that a drone launched from Ukraine could hit the Kremlin. However, “my opinion is that the drone was launched from a much closer range, as this meant it would not have to attack much of Moscow’s defenses,” he told BBC Verify.

Technically speaking, Ulrike Franke emphasizes, Ukrainian drones are capable of reaching such long distances, so the most plausible explanation for them is that they were launched from Ukraine.

“There is no evidence that Ukraine has significant military forces in Russia capable of launching drone strikes from Russian territory for days without anyone noticing,” the researcher adds.

*With reporting from BBC Mundo’s Paula Rosas and BBC Verify’s Jake Horton, Olga Robinson and Daniele Palumbo.

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