Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych went a step further, pointing out that Engels is the only Russian base fully equipped to accommodate the fleet of giant bombers Moscow uses to attack Ukraine.
“They will try to disperse (strategic aircraft) to the airport, but this all complicates the operation against Ukraine. Yesterday, thanks to their ‘unsuccessful smoking’, we achieved a great deal,” he said.
The damage to the jets has also drawn complaints from Russian military bloggers, whose social media posts can provide insight into Russia’s mood over the course of the war.
“And I, a naive civilian fool, thought the planes were kept under concrete shelters during the war, didn’t I?” wrote Vladlen Tatarsky. “It turns out that small drones, whose dangers are so overlooked, can attack strategic aircraft.”
Russia’s massive Tupolev long-range bomber stationed at Engels forms a major part of its strategic nuclear arsenal, similar to the B-52s the U.S. deployed during the Cold War. Russia has been using them in its campaign since October to knock out Ukraine’s energy grid in a near-weekly wave of missile strikes.
The Engel base is located near the city of Saratov, at least 600 kilometers from the nearest Ukrainian territory.
Russia responded to Monday’s attack with what it called a “massive strike against Ukraine’s military control system,” although it did not identify any specific military targets for what Ukraine said were Moscow’s recent strikes on civilian infrastructure.
Missiles across Ukraine destroyed homes and cut power, but the impact appeared to be less severe than last month’s barrage that drove millions of Ukrainians into darkness and cold.
The Ukrainian air force said it had shot down more than 60 of about 70 missiles. President Zelensky said at least four people were killed.
In the village of Novosofiivka, 25 kilometers east of Zaporizhzhia in southern Ukraine, a missile cratered the ground and completely destroyed a house. Ambulance crews collected two bodies next to a wrecked car.
Olha Troshyna, 62, said the dead were her neighbors who were standing next to their car dropping off their son and daughter-in-law when the missile struck. Now that her home is destroyed and winter is coming, she doesn’t know where she should go.
“We had nowhere to go,” she said. “If only it had been spring or summer. If it had been a warmer season, we could have done something. But what do I do now?”
On Tuesday, Zelensky visited troops in the eastern Donbass region, where the war has seen some of the fiercest fighting.
He praised soldiers in a selfie video taken in front of a sign on a road outside Slovyansk, near the city of Bakhmut, which Russian troops have been trying to surround for weeks. He also presented medals and shook hands with troops in the hangar.
Russia claims military justification for attacking Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure. Kyiv said the attack was intended to harm civilians, a war crime.
“They don’t understand one thing – such missile attacks only increase our resistance,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Reznikov said.
There have been no political talks to end the war. Moscow has insisted there will be no talks unless Kyiv and the West accept its sovereignty over the Ukrainian land it claims, while Kyiv has said Russia must leave all its territories.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday that the talks would only be possible if Russia achieved its goals for a “special military operation,” without defining what that meant.
“Russia must and will achieve the goals it sets,” he said. “As for the prospect of some kind of negotiation, we don’t see it at the moment, and we’ve said it many times.”
However, Russia and Ukraine said on Tuesday that in the latest such exchange, they each exchanged 60 prisoners of war.
The Russian Ministry of Defense showed footage of men in military uniforms getting off the bus and talking on the phone. “Everything is fine, alive and well. I’ll be home soon,” one of them said.
Ukraine’s presidential chief of staff, Andrei Yermak, hailed the returning Ukrainians as heroes and said dozens of them held out in the city of Mariupol until Russia forced its surrender in May.
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