Ukrainian drones attack Russian airport in large-scale raids on six regions

Raids come as Russia launches largest missile and drone attack on Ukraine capital in months, killing two people.

This image made from a social media and and provided by Ostorozhno Novosti shows smoke billowing over the city and a large blaze in Pskov, Russia, on Aug. 29, 2023. Russian officials accused Ukraine of targeting six Russian regions early Wednesday in what appeared to be the biggest drone attack on Russian soil since Moscow sent troops into Ukraine 18 months ago. (Ostorozhno Novosti via AP)
An image from social media shows a large fire and billowing smoke in Pskov, Russia, on August 29, 2023 following a drone raid on an airport in the western Russian region [Ostorozhno Novosti via AP Photo]

Russia said that Ukraine launched drones against targets in six Russian regions, including an attack on an airport in the western city of Pskov – located near the borders of Latvia and Estonia – where military transport aircraft were reported damaged amid explosions and a huge fire.

In what could be the biggest drone attack on Russian territory since Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, Russia’s defence ministry said on Wednesday morning that drones were also shot down over the regions of Orlov, Bryansk, Ryazan, Kaluga and the Moscow region surrounding the Russian capital.

Meanwhile, Russia also launched a missile and drone attack against Kyiv on Wednesday morning that was described as the “most powerful strike” on the Ukrainian capital in months, leaving two people dead and one wounded, the city’s Mayor Vitali Klitschko wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

Ukrainian air defences destroyed more than 20 missiles and drones involved in the attack and two security guards were killed by falling debris, according to authorities.

“Kyiv had not experienced such a powerful attack since spring … In total, more than 20 enemy targets were destroyed by air defence forces,” the Kyiv city military administration wrote on Telegram.

Firefighters put out a fire after a Russian rocket attack in Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023. Over 20 rockets and drones have been shot down by the air defence system in Kyiv overnight. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
Firefighters extinguish flames after a Russian missile and drone attack on Kyiv, Ukraine, on August 30, 2023 [Efrem Lukatsky/AP Photo]

Russian state news agency TASS, quoting emergency services, said earlier on Wednesday that four Il-76 heavy transport aircraft, which have long been the workhorse of the Russian military, were damaged at an airfield in Russia’s western Pskov region, located roughly 660km (some 411 miles) north of Ukrainian border.

“The defence ministry is repelling a drone attack in Pskov’s airport,” the regional Governor Mikhail Vedernikov said on the Telegram messaging app, posting a video of a large fire, with sounds of explosions and sirens in the background.

Vedernikov, who was at the scene of the attack, said that “according to preliminary information, there are no victims”.

The scale of the damage to the airport was being assessed, he said.

Video footage posted on social media, reportedly from the airport, showed thick black smoke rising over the building with residents reporting hearing loud explosions and gunfire.

Reports on Telegram channels said anti-aircraft systems were in action around the Russian city, which is located close to European Union member countries Latvia and Estonia.

Moscow’s Vnukovo airport was also closed briefly early on Wednesday, TASS reported, citing Russian aviation officials. The airport was ordered closed amid reports that Russia’s military was repelling a drone attack on Pskov airport, the news agency reported.

‘Accidents happening on Russian territory’

Meduza, one of Russia’s most widely read independent news sites, said sources reported that between 10 and 20 drones attacked Pskov airfield and that Russian troops stationed on the ground tried to repel the drone raid using small-arms fire. One of the drones reportedly hit a refuelling complex, according to the news site, causing a large fire.

Russia’s 334th Transport Aviation Regiment, which operates Il-76 transport planes, is based at the Pskov airport, according to Meduza.

All flights from the airport are cancelled, the Pskov Governor Vedernikov wrote on Telegram, “until the nature of the possible damage to the runway is clarified”.

The extent of any damage or casualties from the other Russian regions where drones were reportedly shot down was not immediately known.

Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabbari, reporting from Saint Petersburg in Russia, said the Russian foreign ministry has branded the drone raids on Wednesday a “terrorist act” by Kyiv.

“The feeling here is that this is one of the most brazen attacks on Russian territory since the start of the so-called ‘special military operation’,” Jabbari said.

Reporting from Kyiv, Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride said that authorities in Ukraine do not comment directly on attacks inside Russia, which they have described as “accidents happening on Russian territory”.

“But the administration here, including Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the president, have said that Russian airbases do present legitimate targets, and it does follow a pattern now, a surge, an uptick in attacks on Russian airbases. Not only airbases in occupied Crimea but also in Russia itself,” McBride said.

The Pskov region last came under attack in late May when two armed drones caused an explosion that left an oil pipeline’s administrative building damaged, the regional governor said at the time.

Russia’s capital Moscow and regional areas in the country have come under near-daily raids by Ukrainian drones in recent weeks amid a warning by Kyiv that the war on Ukraine would “return” to Russia.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies