Russia says Ukraine launched far-ranging drone attacks on final day of Russia’s presidential vote

Russian authorities say two died in Belgorod region as a result of Ukrainian attack

Ukraine launched a new wave of attacks inside Russian territory Sunday, killing at least two people, including a teenager, according to local officials, as Russians cast ballots on the final day of a presidential vote set to extend President Vladimir Putin’s rule for another six years.

Authorities also said that a drone fell on a refinery in the Krasnodar region, sparking a blaze that was extinguished a few hours later. A worker at the refinery died of a heart attack, officials said.

Refineries and oil terminals have been targets of Ukrainian drone attacks in recent days, according to Russian officials, part of stepped up assaults on Russian territory, including long-range drone attacks and alleged incursions by Ukraine-based Russian proxies, as Putin heads for near-certain reelection in Russia.

The Russian Defense Ministry reported downing 35 Ukrainian drones overnight, including four in the Moscow region. Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said that a fifth drone, close to the capital’s Domodedovo airport, was downed on Sunday morning. No casualties or damage were reported.

According to the Defense Ministry, two drones were shot down over the Kaluga region, just south of the Russian capital, and four in the Yaroslavl region, northeast of Moscow.

The attacks on the Yaroslavl region, which is located about 800 kilometers (500 miles) from the Ukrainian border, were some of the farthest launched by Ukraine so far.

More Ukrainian drones were downed over the Belgorod, Kursk and Rostov regions that border Ukraine, and the southern Krasnodar region, the Defense Ministry said.

Shelling of Belgorod on Sunday morning killed a 16-year-old girl and wounded her father, while a second assault later in the day killed another man and wounded 11 others, Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov said.

Elsewhere, a drone strike at a military installation in Moldova’s breakaway republic of Transnistria on Sunday destroyed a helicopter and ignited a fire, officials said. The area’s pro-Russia authorities blamed the strike on Ukraine. The Bureau for Reintegration Policies said in a statement that they didn’t “confirm any attack” on Transnistria, and described the reports as an “attempt to cause fear and panic in the region.”

There have been a series of Ukrainian drone raids over the past few days that Putin described as an attempt by Ukraine to frighten residents and derail Russia’s presidential election.

“Those enemy strikes haven’t been and won’t be left unpunished,” he vowed during Friday’s meeting of Russia’s Security Council. “I’m sure that our people, the people of Russia, will respond to that with even greater cohesion.”

Two Russian ballistic missiles hit the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv on Sunday, wounding at least five people, the region’s Gov. Vitaliy Kim wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

The Ukrainian military also said that 14 Russian drones had been shot down over the Odesa region Sunday, following a Russian ballistic missile assault on the southern port city Friday that killed at least 21 people.

Britain’s defense ministry said Sunday that the country’s defense secretary, Grant Shapps, abandoned a trip to Odesa earlier this month because of a Russian missile threat. The Sunday Times reported that Shapps, who visited Kyiv on March 7, had been warned by British intelligence that Russia had become aware of his travel plans.

As the war drags into a third year, Russian forces have made some slow and incremental gains along the front line, relying on their edge in firepower, while Ukraine has fought back with more drone attacks deep inside Russia.

There has also been an increasing number of cross-border raids.

The Freedom of Russia Legion — one of a number of armed groups that includes Russians fighting alongside Ukrainian forces — said Sunday that it had taken control of the Russian border village of Gorkovskiy in the Belgorod region. A video released on social media appeared to show troops removing the Russian flag from the village’s main administration building. The images weren’t independently verified by The Associated Press.

A similar group, the Russian Volunteer Corps, released a video on social media Saturday alleging to have captured 25 Russian soldiers. The claim also couldn’t be independently verified.

Meanwhile, the Russian military said on Saturday that it had thwarted another attempted cross-border incursion by Ukrainian “sabotage and reconnaissance groups.”

Cross-border attacks in the area have taken place sporadically since the war began and have been the subject of claims and counterclaims, as well as disinformation and propaganda.


Jill Lawless in London, and Stephen McGrath in Sighisoara, Romania, contributed to this report.


This story has been corrected to show that the contributor Stephen McGrath is in Sighisoara, Romania, not Bucharest.