Reports emerged on Tuesday that a fire broke out at Khalino military airfield in Kursk, Russia, roughly 60 miles from the Ukrainian border. Russian authorities blamed the fire on a Ukrainian drone strike.
The strikes come only a day after Ukrainian forces appeared to cause explosions on two Russian military bases, Dyagilevo and Engels, causing damage to Russian aircraft ahead of a planned Russian missile bombardment in Ukraine.
Much like Monday’s strikes, Kyiv has once again refrained from taking responsibility for the attack.
Writing on Telegram, Kursk Oblast’s regional governor Roman Starovoy said that the Ukrainian drone strike on Khalino had ignited an oil reservoir.
“As a result of a drone attack, an oil reservoir caught on fire in the area of Kursk airport. The fire is being contained. All emergency services are working on the spot,” the Russian official wrote.
Ukraine vs. Russia: See the Footage
Video clips shared online show the scale of the damage done to the airfield.
Huge plumes of black smoke can be seen rising into the air.
In one video, the fire can be seen perfectly in daylight – and both the sheer size and the dark color of the smoke appear to confirm reports that the drone strike caused an oil fire.
Additional videos shared online, recorded in the dark, show the large fire visible for miles around.
The clips appear to have been recorded by Russian civilians on their cell phones.
Russian Failures Exposed
On Tuesday, the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence suggested that the attacks expose a significant failure of Russia’s air defense systems.
In Russia tonight there was a new attack by an unknown drone on the Khalino military airfield in Kursk. As a result of the attack, an oil reservoir near the airport caught fire. pic.twitter.com/d14c1PJW1N
— Special Kherson Cat ??? (@bayraktar_1love) December 6, 2022
“If Russia assesses the incidents were deliberate attacks, it will probably consider them as some of the most strategically significant failures of force protection since its invasion of Ukraine,” an intelligence update reads.
The update also recognized that the latest strikes are “much deeper inside Russian than previous similar explosions,” with the strike on the Engels airbase on Monday taking place some 600km away from Ukrainian-controlled territory.
Even without the long-range missile systems Ukraine has repeatedly requested from the United States, and failed to obtain, Ukrainian forces have shown that they are capable of causing significant damage, deep into Russian territory, using drones.
Since the early days of the Russian invasion, Western allies of Ukraine have remained hesitant to provide long-range missiles over concerns that Russia could view subsequent strikes on Russian territory as an escalation in the war.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s response to the strike, stating that the United States neither encouraged nor enabled the Ukrainians to strike Russia, appeared to reaffirm that unease with Ukrainian forces striking Russian territories.
With Ukrainian forces using Soviet-era drones to launch these devastating attacks, however, Russia now must contend with the fact that Ukraine is effectively using Russian weapons to expose major holes in Russia’s air defenses.
Jack Buckby is 19FortyFive’s Breaking News Editor.