Ukrainian drones have struck targets in at least six regions deep within Russia – including an airfield where they destroyed military transport planes – in one of the broadest volleys yet of Kyiv’s campaign to turn the tables on Moscow.
Russian officials described attacks on targets in the Pskov, Bryansk, Kaluga, Orlov, Ryazan and Moscow regions.
In Pskov, in northern Russia more than 600 kilometres from Ukraine, a huge fire erupted at a military airfield.
Tass news agency reported at least four giant Il-76 transport planes were damaged, two of which had “burst into flames”.
The attacks came as authorities in Kyiv reported at least two people killed in what they described as the heaviest Russian air strikes on the Ukrainian capital for months.
Debris from downed missiles fell on buildings, a park and a school, Ukrainian officials said.
Three others were hurt in the overnight strike on Kyiv and combat drones attacked infrastructure in the central region of Zhytomyr, where an unidentified facility and railway tracks were damaged and trains were delayed, they said.
Ukrainian air defences shot down all 28 incoming missiles and 15 of the 16 drones in the overnight attack, which also targeted the Black Sea region of Odesa, said General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, Commander-in-Chief of Ukraine’s armed forces.
Moscow has relentlessly pounded Ukrainian cities with long-range missiles and drone strikes throughout the war.
But attacks on Russia in recent weeks, including repeated drone strikes on central Moscow, have brought the war home to many Russians for the first time.
Footage published by Pskov’s governor on Telegram on Wednesday showed a huge fire with the sounds of sirens and an explosion.
Another video posted online showed anti-aircraft systems in action around the city, which is just 32 kilometres east of Russia’s border with NATO member Estonia.
Russia claimed to have thwarted all the attacks.
Russia typically describes all Ukrainian drone strikes as unsuccessful, regardless of the damage on the ground.
There was no comment from Kyiv, which generally withholds comment on specific strikes on territory inside Russia but says it has a right to hit military targets in self-defence.
Russia said Ukrainian drones had tried to attack a TV tower over the Bryansk region.
No casualties were reported.
Moscow also said its aircraft had destroyed four Ukrainian fast-attack boats carrying up to 50 paratroopers on the Black Sea.
Reuters could not independently confirm the report.
At the front line, Ukrainian forces have been advancing in a summer offensive for almost three months.
They have yet to achieve a breakthrough in Russia’s heavily mined and fortified defences, although they have claimed in just the past week to have finally penetrated the first main defensive line.
United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday announced a new package of military assistance to aid Ukraine in its fight against Russia, which launched its full-scale invasion of its neighbour in February 2022.
The package includes additional mine-clearing equipment, missiles for air defence, plus ammunition for artillery and small arms, Mr Blinken said in a statement.
Ukraine is using vast amounts of ammunition in some of the heaviest fighting of the war as it presses its summer counter-offensive in the south and east, where Russian forces are deeply entrenched.
On Tuesday Yevgeny Prigozhin, boss of Russia’s Wagner private army, was buried in a leafy cemetery on the outskirts of St Petersburg, six days after he was killed in a plane crash north of Moscow.
Prigozhin, two top Wagner lieutenants and four bodyguards were among 10 people who died when his Embraer Legacy 600 private jet crashed in unexplained circumstances on August 23, two months after he staged a brief mutiny.
President Vladimir Putin had called the mutiny treason but had promised Prigozhin would escape punishment.
Moscow says it is investigating the crash and has denied any involvement.
Western countries say there is little doubt Mr Prigozhin was killed on Mr Putin’s orders.