Moscow accuses Ukraine of deadly air base attack
Moscow said Monday it had foiled a new Ukrainian drone attack on a strategic bomber military base hundreds of kilometres from their joint border, as Kyiv called for Russia’s ouster from the United Nations.
Russia said it had downed the drone at Engels, a base for the country’s strategic aircraft that Kyiv says have been used to strike Ukraine. Three servicemen were killed by falling debris, regional authorities said.
The same day, Russia’s domestic security agency said it killed four Ukrainian “saboteurs”, who allegedly attempted to enter Russia via a border region.
Moscow has accused pro-Kyiv forces of targeting Russian military sites and civilian infrastructure, including blowing up a bridge linking annexed Crimea to Russia.
Russia’s defence ministry said on Monday it downed a Ukrainian drone at its Engels airfield in the southern Saratov region located more than 600 kilometres (370 miles) from the border with Ukraine.
It was the second attack on the Engels airfield in less than a month and the deepest strike into Russian territory since President Vladimir Putin sent troops to Ukraine on February 24.
In early December, the Russian defence ministry said Ukrainian drone attacks caused explosions at two airfields including Engels, leaving three dead. The airfields were targeted with Soviet-made drones, the ministry said at the time.
Separately, Russia’s FSB security service claimed Monday it had killed a group of armed saboteurs from Ukraine that attempted to cross into the Bryansk region carrying “improvised explosive devices”.
A video released by the FSB showed several bloodied bodies sprawled on the ground, wearing winter camouflage and carrying guns.
There was no immediate comment from Kyiv.
The attacks came 10 months into Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine where Russian strikes have been battering the country’s energy grid, leaving millions in the cold and dark in the middle of winter.
– ‘Unite the Russian people’ –
Ukraine on Monday urged the exclusion of Russia — a permanent member of the UN Security Council — from the world body.
“Ukraine calls on the member states of the UN… to deprive the Russian Federation of its status as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and to exclude it from the UN as a whole,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
“We have a very simple question: Does Russia have the right to remain a permanent member of the UN Security Council and to be in the United Nations at all?” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Sunday.
“We have a convincing and reasoned answer — no, it does not.”
The five permanent members of the 15-seat Security Council have veto power that can block any resolution.
In Kyiv, President Volodymyr Zelensky said rolling blackouts were continuing across the country with 9 million people left without power on Monday evening, as engineers were working over the winter holidays to patch up the country’s battered energy grid.
Despite mounting human and material losses and growing international isolation, Russian President Vladimir Putin has shown no readiness to change tactics.
On Sunday, Putin said his assault on Ukraine aimed to “unite the Russian people”, accusing his country’s “geopolitical opponents (of) aiming to tear apart Russia, the historical Russia”.
The Kremlin chief has reiterated the concept of “historical Russia” to argue that Ukrainians and Russians were one people.
“Divide and conquer, that’s what they have always sought to accomplish and are still seeking to do,” Putin said in a television interview, referring to the West.
“But our goal is different: it’s to unite the Russian people.”
He said that Moscow was ready to negotiate and appeared unfazed when asked about a new air defence system the United States will deliver to Ukraine.
“Of course we will destroy it, 100 percent!” Putin said, referring to the Patriot missile battery promised to Zelensky.
Zelensky last week earned firm pledges of support from Washington during his first trip out of Ukraine since the conflict began — including the Pentagon’s most advanced air defence system.
Western military and financial aid has been crucial for Ukraine’s pushback of Russian troops — including from the southern city of Kherson, the only regional capital that was held by Russia.
Despite Russia’s retreat from the city, it remains within reach of Moscow’s weaponry and under constant threat.