Three Russian soldiers were killed on Monday after a Ukrainian drone was shot down by air defenses as it approached a military airfield in Saratov Oblast, deep in Russian territory, according to state Russian news agencies, citing the Defense Ministry.
CNN was unable to independently confirm Russian reports that the drone was shot down on purpose and did not reach its intended target.
Here’s what we know about the incident so far:
Where did it happen: It took place in the western port town of Engels, about 500 miles (more than 800 kilometers) southeast of Moscow, on the Volga River.
Why it matters: It is the second such attempted attack this month on the city, which is home to Engels-2 Air Base, a strategic bomber base.
Investigations ongoing: Law enforcement agencies are now investigating the incident at the airfield, Saratov Oblast Governor Roman Busargin said on Monday. The comments, published on his official Telegram channel, came after reports of an explosion in the city spread. He added that there had been “no emergencies in the city’s residential areas” and that no civilian infrastructure had been damaged. He also expressed his condolences to the families of the soldiers and said the government will help them.
What Ukraine says: In a statement Monday, Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ihnat claimed no direct responsibility for the drone, but indicated that the attack was a “consequence of what Russia is doing.” He added: “If the Russians thought that the war would not affect anyone in the deep hinterland[of Russia]or elsewhere, they were gravely mistaken. Therefore, as we see, things like this are happening more and more frequently, and let’s hope that this will only benefit Ukraine.” Also on Monday, a spokesman for the security and defense forces of southern Ukraine warned of a possible Russian retaliatory strike, citing a similar incident earlier this month in the same region.
What happened earlier this month: CCTV footage earlier this month appeared to show an explosion lighting up the sky in Engels. At the time, Gov. Busargin also assured residents that no civilian infrastructure was damaged and that “information about incidents at military facilities is being reviewed by law enforcement agencies.” He had admitted that information about “a loud bang and a bang in Engels early in the morning” spread on social networks and the media. Engels-2 airfield is almost 6 kilometers (more than 3 miles) from where the CCTV footage was captured in early December.