Ukraine strikes Russian drone factory 1,300km from border

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Ukraine has carried out its longest-range drone strikes in Russia more than two years into Moscow’s full-scale war, injuring at least a dozen people in an attack on an industrial facility and a refinery more than 1,300km behind enemy lines.

Ukrainian drones on Tuesday hit the Alabuga special economic zone in Tatarstan, which is home to a facility producing Iranian-designed Shahed drones that Russia uses for attacks on Ukraine. At least 12 people were injured in an on-site dormitory for students, according to state newswire Tass.

Videos posted on social media showed one of the drones in Alabuga crashing into a building, followed by a fiery explosion.

Russia’s third-largest oil refinery in the nearby city of Nizhnekamsk was also damaged in the attack. A Ukrainian drone hit the refinery’s primary oil processing plant, causing a fire that emergency services put out in 20 minutes, according to state newswire RIA Novosti.

The terminal’s refining capacity is about 8mn tonnes of oil a year, roughly half the total output at the plant.

The regional government of Tatarstan governor has claimed neither site sustained any serious damage.

Ukraine has stepped up attacks in recent weeks on Russia’s oil refineries, terminals, depots and storage facilities in an attempt to limit Moscow’s revenue from energy sales as well as fuel supplies for its invading army.

The US has repeatedly warned Kyiv against the attacks, fearful of their impact on global oil prices and the potential for retaliation.

Dmitry Peskov, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson, told reporters that Russia’s army “is working on minimising this threat and eventually simply eliminating it”, reported Interfax.

The long-range drone used in Tuesday’s attack was made by Ukraine’s military intelligence engineers, a person familiar with the matter told Financial Times. “Ukraine continues to destroy military forces on the territory of the aggressor state using its own means,” they said. 

Alexander Kots, a prominent Russian pro-war blogger, said the drones appeared to be Ukrainian-made Aeroprakt A-22 Foxbat light aircraft, packed with explosives and retrofitted as drones.

The technology and manufacturing of Ukraine’s long-range weaponry is shrouded in secrecy, with Ukrainian officials declining to release details.

However, the drones currently being used are at least partly based on captured Shahed drones. Ukrainian military engineers dismantled downed Iranian drones in October 2022 and Ukraine’s strategic infrastructure minister Oleksandr Kamyshin announced in November that Ukraine was now mass producing Shahed analogues. 

In May 2023, Ukraine started sending its own drones into Moscow as a show of force. By September, it began to hit military-related targets inside Russia. Since the start of this year, domestic-made attack drones have struck 10 Russian oil refineries and depots as well as three metal and mining plants.

Additional reporting by Christopher Miller in Kyiv

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