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Wednesday, April 17, 2024  
09 Shawwal 1445  

Three dead after drone attack on Russian military airport

Ukraine urges Western allies to provide fighter jets, warships and tanks
Engels air base was attacked earlier this month by Ukrainian drones Photo: Reuters/File
Engels air base was attacked earlier this month by Ukrainian drones Photo: Reuters/File

MOSCOW: Three soldiers have been killed in a drone attack on Engels military airport in southern Russia, hundreds of kilometres from the Ukrainian border, according to Russian information.

“On December 26 at 01:35 Moscow time (2235 GMT on Sunday) the Russian air defence shot down a Ukrainian drone at low altitude while approaching the Engels military airfield in the Saratov region,” the Russian Defence Ministry said on Monday.

The falling fragments killed three soldiers, the ministry added. The information could not be independently verified.

Media reported that four other people were injured.

“The aircraft technology was not damaged,” the military leadership said.

Strategic bombers used to destroy Ukraine’s energy infrastructure are stationed in Engels. The town on the Volga river is more than 500 kilometres from the Ukrainian border.

This is not the first drone attack on the airport. In early December, two aircraft were damaged, according to Russian information. At the time, another military airport was also attacked in Ryazan, 200 kilometres southeast of Moscow.

The attacks are considered a response to Russian missile fire.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrij Melnyk called on Western allies to provide his country with fighter jets and warships in addition to the tanks Kiev has long been requesting, in an interview with dpa.

Melnyk’s comments follow a pledge last week by US President Joe Biden to supply Ukraine with Patriot air defence systems.

Ukraine was very grateful for the “new brave steps” taken by the Washington, Melnyk said. “But it is clear: there are still many taboos to be broken. We urgently need Western tanks, fighter jets, warships, multiple rocket launchers, ammunition.”

This was his only Christmas wish, the former ambassador to Germany said. Otherwise the war would drag on and bring more suffering, death and devastation to Ukraine, Melnyk added.

Melnyk said Russian President Vladimir Putin was preparing his military and citizens for a very long war, mobilizing all available resources.

“The Ukrainians are ready to fight for the liberation of their homeland, including Crimea, as long as we breathe. That is certain, no matter what our partners will do,” he added.

Melnyk rejected negotiations with Russia, calling the Kremlin’s talk of an apparent willingness to negotiate “pure bluff.”

He categorically ruled out the possibility of Ukraine relinquishing any parts of its territory. “This is unacceptable for Kiev. It will never happen,” Melnyk said.

In its latest intelligence update, the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) cast doubt on Russia’s ability to effectively monitor the minefields it had laid in Ukraine.

Russian forces have focused on expanding their defensive positions with anti-tank mines and anti-personnel mines on many sections of the front line in recent months, the MoD said in its daily brief.

The British officials pointed out that such minefields only present a hurdle to trained troops if they are covered by proper surveillance and fire.

“A major challenge for the Russian forces will likely be a shortage of surveillance assets and trained personnel to effectively monitor large areas of the new minefields,” the MoD tweeted.

Since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February, the MoD in London has been issuing daily intelligence updates on the course of the war to counter the Russian narrative. Moscow accuses London of a targeted disinformation campaign.

In the Vatican, Pope Francis called for peace in Ukraine, repeating a plea made in two previous addresses over the Christmas period.

“I renew my wish for peace: peace in families, peace in parishes and religious communities, peace in movements and associations, peace for those war-torn peoples, peace for the dear and martyred Ukraine,” Francis said in addressing the faithful on St Peter’s Square.

Meanwhile in the Czech Republic, President Milos Zeman called for further support for Ukraine, including military backing, arguing that Russia would eventually have to leave Ukraine.

“I am convinced that the pressure of free countries will sooner or later compel Russia to leave the territory of Ukraine,” Zeman said in his traditional Christmas television address.

He said he had always favoured correct economic relations between his country and Russia, especially due to its important energy supplies.

Now, however, the security of the world and thus also of the Czech Republic was under threat, he noted. In such situations, economic interests had to take a back seat to security interests.

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