For the second day in a row, an unmanned drone thought to be dispatched by Ukraine struck deep within Russian territory as the invasion Vladimir Putin underestimated turned sharply towards a war fought in both nations.
On Monday, deadly twin strikes hit the Engels-2 airfield and the Dyagilevo military base less than 150 miles from Moscow. The strike Tuesday hit an oil storage tank in Kursk, not far from the Ukraine border, setting off a spectacular explosion sure to rattle Russians who have been brainwashed to believe the war would never hit home.
The change in tack from Ukraine—which has not formally claimed responsibility—has many wondering how Putin will respond beyond sending more missiles into Ukraine’s infrastructure. Rather than claiming victory, Oleskiy Reznikov, Ukraine’s Defense Minister, repeated an old joke often used about Russia claiming explosions in its military bases were caused by rogue cigarettes. “Very often Russians smoke in places where it’s forbidden to smoke,” he said, according to Reuters.
Russia, which held emergency talks on “internal security” Tuesday, has blamed Ukraine for the strikes. The Russian Defense Ministry issued a statement early Tuesday saying, “The Kyiv regime attempted to strike the Dyagilevo airfield in the Ryazan region, and the Engels airfield in the Saratov region, with Soviet-made drones.”
Many watching the battlefield see the breach of Russian air space as a huge loss for Putin that will likely be first addressed at home. “If Russia assesses the incidents were deliberate attacks, it will probably consider them as some of the most strategically significant failures of force protection since its invasion of Ukraine,” the U.K. Defense Ministry said in a statement Tuesday. “The Russian chain of command will probably seek to identify and impose severe sanctions on Russian officers deemed responsible for allowing the incident.”
Ukraine, for its part, is gearing up its defenses, according to presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych. “They will try to disperse (strategic aircraft) to airfields, but all this complicates the operation against Ukraine,” he wrote on Telegram. “Yesterday, thanks to their unsuccessful smoking, we achieved a very big result.”