Ukraine targets oil refinery and drone factory with drones in its deepest attack yet inside Russia

Kyiv, Ukraine –

Ukrainian drones attacked one of Russia’s largest oil refineries and a drone factory in Russia’s Tatarstan province, officials said Tuesday, in what appeared to be Kiev’s deepest attack inside Russian territory since the war began. more than two years ago.

The attack on facilities near the cities of Yelabuga and Nizhnekamsk, located about 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) east of Ukraine, left 12 wounded, Russian regional authorities said.

In recent months, Russian refineries and oil terminals have become priority targets of Ukrainian drone attacks, as part of intensified attacks on Russian territory.

Ukrainian drone developers have been expanding the weapons’ range for months, as kyiv tries to make up for its disadvantage in weapons and troops on the battlefield. Unmanned aerial vehicles are also an affordable option as Ukraine waits for more US military aid.

Neither side currently has the ability to make a dent in the roughly 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) front line.

Ukrainian security and intelligence officials said they attacked a “drone production site” in Yelabuga, Tatarstan, using long-range drones produced in Ukraine. Tatarstan is known for its high level of industrialization and a factory near Yelabuga has reportedly built Iranian-designed Shahed explosive drones.

Ukrainian officials also said intelligence services were involved in an overnight attack on the Nizhnekamsk oil refinery.

The officials spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly. It was a rare claim of responsibility, as Kiev officials typically decline to comment on attacks on Russian soil, although they sometimes refer to them indirectly.

The Associated Press could not independently verify the claims.

Russia has routinely used Shahed drones for airstrikes against Ukraine, including large strikes that deploy up to 90 of them at a time in an attempt to overwhelm air defenses.

Tatarstan officials said the attack did not disrupt industrial production, while the mayor of Nizhnekamsk said the attempt to attack the refinery was thwarted by air defenses.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said kyiv was trying to divert attention from its military setbacks by attempting to attack Russian territory “to persuade its Western backers that it remains capable of confronting the Russian military.”

During a meeting with top military commanders, Shoigu said Russian troops have gained more than 400 square kilometers (about 155 square miles) since the beginning of the year.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Russian military was taking steps to strengthen defenses against such attacks.

“The military is working to minimize this threat and eventually eliminate it completely,” he said in a conference call with reporters.

Ukraine has previously launched drone strikes in and around St. Petersburg, which is about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) north of the border. But the facilities in Tatarstan, a province on the Volga River, appear to be the furthest target Ukraine has attempted to attack.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said last year that his country had developed a weapon that hit a target 700 kilometers (400 miles) away, in apparent reference to a drone attack on Russian soil.

Late last year, Ukraine’s Digital Transformation Minister Mykhailo Fedorov said the government was committed to building a next-generation “drone army” and that its value to the war effort will be evident later this year. . Ukraine trained more than 10,000 new drone pilots last year, he said.

Ukraine has also developed deadly marine drones that have attacked Russian navy ships in the Black Sea. Those successful attacks have embarrassed the Kremlin, and on Tuesday Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree appointing Admiral Alexander Moiseyev as the new chief of the navy, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

Putin also appointed Vice Admiral Sergei Pinchuk as the new commander of the Black Sea Fleet after the dismissal of his predecessor, Admiral Viktor Sokolov.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s air force said Tuesday it intercepted nine out of 10 Shahed drones launched overnight by Russia in the latest attack on the country’s power grid.

These attacks also claim civilian lives. Volker Türk, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said Tuesday that the war has killed more than 10,500 Ukrainian civilians and injured more than 20,000.

“The conflict is becoming increasingly entrenched and protracted, punctuated by recurring waves of attacks, as seen across the country last week,” he said in a speech.

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