Moscow accuses Ukraine of deadly attack on an air base

Moscow said on Monday it had thwarted a new Ukrainian drone strike against a military base of strategic bombers hundreds of kilometers from their joint border, as Kyiv called for Russia’s expulsion from the United Nations.

Russia said it had shot down the drone in Engels, a base for the country’s strategic aircraft that Kyiv says has been used to attack Ukraine. Three military personnel were killed by falling debris, regional authorities said.

On the same day, Russia’s internal security agency said it killed four Ukrainian “saboteurs” who allegedly tried to enter Russia through a border region.

Moscow has accused pro-Kyiv forces of attacking Russian military posts and civilian infrastructure, including blowing up a bridge linking annexed Crimea with Russia.

second strike

Russia’s defense ministry said Monday it shot down a Ukrainian drone at its Engels airfield in the southern Saratov region, more than 600 kilometers (370 miles) from the border with Ukraine.

It was the second attack on Engels Airfield in less than a month and the deepest attack on Russian territory since President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine on February 24.

In early December, the Russian Defense Ministry said Ukrainian drone strikes caused explosions at two airfields, including Engels, and left three dead. The airfields were targeted with Soviet-made drones, the ministry said at the time.

Separately, Russia’s FSB security service claimed to have killed a group of armed saboteurs from Ukraine who were trying to cross into the Bryansk region with “improvised explosive devices”.

A video released by the FSB showed several bloodied bodies on the ground, dressed in winter camouflage and holding weapons.

There was no immediate comment from Kyiv.

ALSO READ: Putin says West wants to ‘tear apart’ Russia

The attacks came 10 months after Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine, where Russian troops have been pounding the country’s power grid, leaving millions in the cold and dark in the dead of winter.

Ukraine on Monday called for the exclusion of Russia, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, from the world body.

“Ukraine calls on the UN member states to deprive the Russian Federation of its status as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and to exclude it from the UN as a whole,” the affairs ministry said Foreign in a statement.

– “Unite the Russian people” –

“We have a very simple question: Does Russia have the right to remain a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and to be in the United Nations at all?” The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dmytro Kuleba, said this on Sunday.

“We have a convincing and reasoned answer: no, no.”

The five permanent members of the 15-seat Security Council have veto power that can block any resolution.

Despite mounting human and material losses and growing international isolation, Russian President Vladimir Putin has shown no willingness to change tactics.

On Sunday, Putin said his assault on Ukraine was aimed at “uniting the Russian people,” accusing his country’s “geopolitical opponents (of) wanting to destroy Russia, historic Russia.”

ALSO READ: Ukraine struggles to restore power after Russian missiles hit grid

The head of the Kremlin has reiterated the concept of “historical Russia” to argue that Ukrainians and Russians were one people.

“Divide and conquer, that’s what they’ve always wanted to achieve and are still looking to do,” Putin said in a televised interview, referring to the West.

“But our goal is different: it is to unite the Russian people.”

He said Moscow was ready to negotiate and was unfazed when asked about a new air defense system the United States will deliver to Ukraine.

“Of course we will destroy it, 100 percent!” Putin said, referring to the Patriot missile battery promised to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Zelensky last week won strong support from Washington during his first trip outside Ukraine since the conflict began, including the Pentagon’s most advanced air defense system.

Western military and financial aid has been crucial to Ukraine’s crackdown on Russian troops, including in the southern city of Kherson, Russia’s only regional capital.

Despite Russia’s withdrawal from the city, it remains within range of Moscow’s weaponry and under constant threat.

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