Drones Strike Deep in Russia, as Ukraine Extends Its Weapons Range


Exploding drones hit an oil refinery and munitions factory far to the east of Moscow on Tuesday, in what Ukrainian media and military experts said was among the longest-range strikes with Ukrainian drones so far in the war.

The drones struck in the Tatarstan region of Russia, about 700 miles from Ukrainian-held territory. Just a day earlier, a Ukrainian official had announced that the country’s domestically produced drones were now able to hit targets beyond 1,000 kilometers, or 621 miles.

The targeted factory was built by Russia to produce its own arsenal of long-range attack drones that are based on an Iranian design known as Shaheds. Russia calls these models Geran-2’s.

Russian officials said a Ukrainian drone hit a dormitory at a factory in the Tatarstan region. Videos posted online, which have not been confirmed as authentic, showed people diving to the ground as explosions rang out. In the video, a bystander can be heard yelling, “a drone hit the factory!”

Spokespeople for Ukraine’s domestic and military intelligence agencies declined to comment on the attack in Tatarstan. In the past, they have claimed responsibility for some strikes inside Russia, but often they have refused to confirm or deny their involvement.

The strike on the oil refinery was the 18th launched against Russian refineries with long-range drones since Ukraine began targeting them last October, a campaign that has shrunk Russia’s refining capacity and forced it to ban gasoline exports temporarily.

The deepest previous strike, in January, hit an oil terminal not far from Saint Petersburg, about 530 miles from Ukraine; a Ukrainian government minister, Oleksandr Kamyshin, acknowledged responsibility for that attack, and said the drone actually flew much farther than that, zigzagging en route to its target.

Ukraine relies on domestically produced weaponry to strike inside Russia. The United States, which has been the country’s largest military supplier since Russia invaded in 2022, has prohibited Ukraine from using American weaponry on targets in Russia.

Ukraine’s drone attacks have often been staged with two to six drones, a senior Ukrainian official overseeing drone production, Mykhailo Fedorov, told the German publication Welt in an interview published this week.

“In the niche of long-range drones, Ukraine has already caught up with Russia with the scale of its production,” Mr. Fedorov said. “Thousands have already been produced, almost every day something burns somewhere on the territory of Russia,” he added.

Ukrainian military experts have questioned these claims, noting that Ukrainian assembly lines, scattered around the country in secret locations or underground, to avoid Russian missile strikes, have struggled to ramp up volume, even as they have perfected some designs. It is unclear whether Ukraine can consistently hit targets out to the range of Tuesday’s strikes.

Valeriy Romanenko, an aviation expert at the National Aviation University in Ukraine, said the strikes in Tatarstan were the deepest in Russia of the war. The Ukrainian news agency RBC reported that the attack was one deepest into Russian territory.

Mr. Romanenko, who reviewed videos posted to social media that appeared to show the drones strikes, said Ukraine had apparently used a model of light propeller airplane manufactured in Ukraine, an Aeroprakt A-22, converted into a pilotless craft. Ukraine has only limited production capacity for the planes, and they are relatively expensive, costing about $250,000 each, he said.

Russia still has a vast advantage in long-range missiles and drones. Since their introduction into the war in the fall of 2022, Russia has launched at least 4,540 Iranian-designed Shahed long-range drones at military targets, energy infrastructure and cities in Ukraine, according to Ukrainian reports compiled by The New York Times.

Oleksandra Mykolyshyn contributed reporting from Kyiv.



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