Russian air defenses shot down two drones aimed at Moscow overnight, officials said Wednesday, describing the unmanned aerial vehicles as Ukraine’s latest attempt to strike the city in an alleged campaign to unnerve Muscovites and take the war to Russia.
The drones were intercepted on their approach to Russia's capital and there were no casualties, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said. The Russian Defense Ministry described it as a “terrorist attack.”
One of the drones came down in the Domodedovo district south of Moscow and the other fell near the Minsk highway, west of the city, according to Sobyanin. Domodedovo airport is one of Moscow’s busiest.
It was not clear where the drones were launched from, and Ukrainian officials made no immediate comment. Ukraine usually neither confirms nor denies such attacks.
Flights were briefly halted at Moscow's Vnukovo International Airport on July 30 and Aug. 1, when drones smashed into the Moscow City business district after being jammed by air defenses in two separate incidents.
In May, Russian authorities accused Ukraine of attempting to attack the Kremlin with two drones in an effort to assassinate President Vladimir Putin. Recent drone attacks have aimed at targets from the Russian capital to the Russia-annexed Crimean Peninsula.
Amid the tension caused by the sporadic drone attacks, at least 43 people were injured in a factory explosion north of Moscow on Wednesday, according to the governor of the region surrounding the Russian capital, Andrei Vorobyov. Five were feared trapped under the rubble, he said.
The blast occurred at a warehouse storing fireworks, he said, though it was on the grounds of a factory that makes telescopic sights and other optical equipment for the army, as well as medical apparatus.
The explosion blew out windows in nearby apartment buildings and prompted the evacuation of the surrounding area, Vorobyov said.
In another incident that caused alarm, Ukrainian media reported social media blogs as saying that a thick plume of smoke billowed over the port city of Sevastopol in Crimea on Wednesday. Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
The Moscow-appointed governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozzhayev, said the smoke came from a “fleet training exercise” and urged local residents not to worry. “Yes, the smell is unpleasant but it is absolutely safe,” he said on Telegram. “Everything is calm in the city.”
Wednesday's developments occurred against the backdrop of Ukraine’s ongoing counteroffensive, which Ukrainian and Western officials have warned will be a long slog against the Kremlin's deeply entrenched forces.
Russia is pushing back against the Ukrainians in eastern areas, where tough battles are taking place, Hanna Maliar, Ukraine’s deputy defense minister, said Wednesday on her official Telegram channel.
“In some parts of the frontline multiple changes in position take place within a day,” she said.
She claimed that Ukraine's efforts had achieved “partial success” in the south. She gave no details.
It was not possible to independently verify either side's claims.
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