Russia said it foiled one of the biggest Ukrainian drone attacks to date on western Russia on Wednesday, shooting down unmanned aircraft over at least six regions, and destroying a Ukrainian naval attack on the annexed Crimean peninsula.
Russian military aircraft were damaged and civilian aviation was disrupted in the drone attacks, said Russian officials, citing Pskov, Bryansk, Kaluga, Orlov, Ryazan, and Moscow regions as targeted.
The most significant attack appeared to be in Pskov about 660 km (411 miles) north of the Ukrainian frontier, near the borders with Estonia and Latvia, where Russian officials said four Il-76 military transport planes were damaged.
Ukraine, which has yet to achieve a major success in its summer ground counteroffensive, has struck deep into Russia in recent months, including an attack on the Kremlin in May and numerous drone attacks on civilian targets in Moscow.
Ukraine typically does not comment on who is behind attacks on Russian territory, although officials have publicly expressed satisfaction over them.
Footage published by Pskov's governor on Telegram showed smoke rising from a large fire as the sounds of sirens and an explosion ring out. Other reports on Telegram channels showed anti-aircraft systems in action around the city, which is just 32 km (20 miles) east of the Estonian border.
Tass news agency, quoting emergency services, said four Il-76 transport aircraft, long the workhorse of the Russian military, were damaged at the military airfield. Two of the planes "burst into flames," it added.
Civilian flights were canceled at the local airport. The airspace around Moscow's Vnukovo airport was closed briefly, TASS reported.
Russia said Ukrainian drones tried to attack a TV tower over the Bryansk region. No casualties were reported.
A Russian aircraft also destroyed four Ukrainian fast-attack boats carrying up to 50 paratroopers in an operation on the Black Sea, the military said.
Russia launched air attacks of its own on Wednesday morning, killing at least two people in Kyiv, Mayor Vitali Klitschko wrote on the Telegram messaging app.
Reuters was not able to independently verify the reports and there was no immediate comment from Ukraine.
More US aid
The drone attacks came as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a new package of military assistance to aid Ukraine in its fight against Russia, which launched a full-scale invasion of its neighbor in Feb. 2022.
The package includes additional mine-clearing equipment, missiles for air defense, plus ammunition for artillery and small arms, Blinken said in a statement.
Ukraine is using vast amounts of ammunition in some of the heaviest fighting of the war as its presses its summer counter-offensive in the south and east, where Russian forces are deeply entrenched.
On Tuesday the Russian mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was buried in a leafy cemetery on the outskirts of St Petersburg, six days after he was killed in an unexplained plane crash north of Moscow.
Prigozhin, two top lieutenants of his Wagner group and four bodyguards were among 10 people who died when his Embraer Legacy 600 private jet crashed in unexplained circumstances on Aug. 23.
He died two months after staging a brief mutiny against the Russian defense establishment, in the biggest challenge to President Vladimir Putin's rule since he rose to power in 1999.
Moscow says it is investigating the crash and has denied any involvement, but in Washington White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre gave her strongest statement yet about the possibility that Putin directed the killing.
"We all know that the Kremlin has a long history of killing opponents," she said. "It's very clear what happened here."
Russia informed Brazil's aircraft investigation authority that it would not probe the crash of the Brazilian-made Embraer jet under international rules "at the moment," the Brazilian agency told Reuters on Tuesday.
Russia’s aviation authority is not obligated to follow international investigation protocols as the flight from Moscow to St. Petersburg was domestic.