Ukraine has opened a new front in its war with Russia, using locally-produced drones to strike targets deep inside Russian territory. The attacks mark a significant escalation by Ukraine and could prompt retaliation from Russia.
Ukrainian Drones Strike Russian Oil Terminal, Causing Large Explosion
On January 18th, Ukrainian drones struck an oil storage facility in St. Petersburg, causing a massive blast and fire. According to Ukraine’s top general, the attack was intended to hit “one of the logistical centers supplying fuel and lubricants to the occupying forces.”
The oil terminal, located just south of Russia’s second-largest city, is a crucial part of infrastructure supplying Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. Photos of the aftermath show giant tanks ripped open by the explosions, their contents burning uncontrollably.
Russia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations has confirmed that two employees are missing after the attack. Authorities warned residents nearby to close windows because of the toxic smoke.
Voronezh Declares Emergency After Apparent Drone Strike
The city of Voronezh, located less than 300 miles from Ukraine’s border, has declared a state of emergency after an apparent Ukrainian drone attack. On January 15th, local air defenses reportedly shot down up to 10 drones headed for a key airbase that houses nuclear-capable bombers.
Debris from destroyed drones damaged nearby apartments, slightly injuring a 4-year-old girl. The governor of Voronezh said the city is “taking all necessary security measures” and asked residents to remain vigilant.
The attack shows Ukraine’s ability to penetrate deep into Russian territory, likely using new technology supplied by Western allies. However, Russia maintains air superiority and claims most incoming drones pose little real danger.
Series of Explosions Rock Belgorod, Closest Russian Region to Ukraine
Belgorod, the Russian territory closest to Ukraine’s northern border, experienced multiple explosions overnight on January 17th into January 18th. Up to 10 missiles and 7 drones targeted the region, according to local authorities.
Air defenses shot down all incoming munitions, though loud explosions shook homes and set off car alarms. Some missile debris caused minor damage but no injuries were reported.
Belgorod has been hit repeatedly since Russia’s invasion last February, disrupting fuel supplies and ammunition. But this incident marks the deepest attack yet, indicating Ukraine’s increased strike capability even without air support.
|Ukrainian drones strike oil terminal, huge explosion/fire
|Apparent drone attack, city declares emergency
|Series of explosions after missiles & drones incoming
Drones Intercepted Near Moscow, First Time Capital Targeted
In an unprecedented escalation, Ukrainian drones targeted Moscow overnight on January 17th-18th. Russia’s Defense Ministry reported shooting down one drone over the Leningrad Oblast, with two more destroyed as they approached the capital.
While the drones did not reach Moscow city itself, it marks the closest strike yet and a bold strategic move by Ukraine. Experts say the drones’ routes likely passed over extensive Russian air defenses, testing their capability.
Russia admitted another drone made it 175 miles inside its border earlier on January 18th before being intercepted. Ukraine has not officially claimed responsibility for the Moscow attacks, but recent strikes indicate growing capabilities.
What Comes Next?
More long-range strikes by Ukraine: Having found success hitting Russian fuel supplies and logistics networks, Ukraine may launch more drone and missile attacks. Striking infrastructure far from the front lines hinders Russia’s war effort.
Russian retaliation or escalation: The strikes on Russian cities could provoke Putin to unleash heavier attacks on Ukraine. Some experts warn he may feel internal political pressure after the embarrassing failures of air defenses.
Closing Ukrainian airspace: Ukraine is expected to push allies again for advanced anti-aircraft systems after demonstrating their drones can penetrate Russian defenses. Preventing Russia’s aerial domination would be a game-changer.
Shift from ground war to an air/drone war: Both sides now seem capable of striking hundreds of miles into the enemy’s territory. If long-range attacks continue, intense localized fighting on the ground may lessen.
With Ukrainian morale boosted and Russia’s public feeling less safe, the expanding theater of conflict takes the 11-month war into dangerous uncharted territory. Yet so far, the Kremlin seems unwilling to retaliate too strongly, wary of getting drawn deeper into a bloody and unpopular quagmire.
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