Russia says it destroyed 281 Ukrainian drones in a week as shelling continues apace and troops step up pressure
- The ‘unmanned aerial vehicles were destroyed, including one Tu-141 Strizh, as well as 29 Ukrainian UAVs’, Moscow ministry said
- For its part Russia has struck Ukraine with waves of one-way drones that are cheaper than missiles and can be difficult to intercept
Russia’s defence ministry said it had destroyed a total of 281 Ukrainian drones over the past week, including 29 over the western regions of Russia, indicating the scale of the drone war now under way between Russia and Ukraine.
“281 Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles were destroyed, including one Tu-141 Strizh, as well as 29 Ukrainian UAVs in the western regions of the Russian Federation,” the ministry said on Friday.
Russia for its part has repeatedly struck Ukraine with waves of one-way drones with explosive payloads, which are far cheaper than missiles and can be difficult, and expensive, for air defence systems to intercept.
Ukrainian aerial drone strikes deep inside Russia have increased since two drones were destroyed over the Kremlin in early May. Drone strikes on the Russian capital have become increasingly common in recent months.
A Ukrainian drone on Friday attacked a town that is home to one of Russia’s biggest nuclear power stations, though no damage to the plant was reported, Russian officials said.
It is unclear whether the drone attacks will affect perceptions of the war among the population in Russia, where public statements of opposition are treated as civil or criminal offences.
Also, on Friday Russia said it captured several strategic heights near Kupiansk, an eastern Ukrainian city around which Moscow’s troops stepped up pressure in August.
“In the direction of Kupiansk, the units of the Western group of forces improved the tactical position by capturing enemy strongholds and key heights,” the Russian defence ministry said, claiming that the Kyiv army sustained “significant” losses.
Ukrainian authorities said one man was killed in Russian shelling of the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson on Friday and three people were wounded in a missile attack in the central region of Vinnytsia overnight.
Ukraine’s air force said it shot down a second missile fired overnight. The missile was downed over the central Kirovohrad region, the local governor said on Telegram.
Meanwhile, two cargo vessels left a port near Odesa, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister said on Friday – the third and fourth to transit from deep-water Ukrainian ports through the Black Sea since Russia withdrew from a safe-passage deal for grain ships.
Oleksandr Kubrakov said the Liberia-flagged Anna-Theresa and Marshall Islands-flagged Ocean Courtesy bulk carriers had left the port of Pivdennyi through a temporary corridor for civilian vessels.
Russia has blockaded Ukrainian ports since it invaded its neighbour in February 2022, and threatened to treat all vessels as potential military targets after pulling out of the UN-backed Ukrainian grain deal in July.
In response, Ukraine announced a “humanitarian corridor” hugging the western Black Sea coast near Romania and Bulgaria. Two vessels stuck in Ukrainian ports during the invasion have thus far been able to use it to leave.
Kubrakov’s ministry, responsible for Ukraine’s infrastructure, said in a Facebook post that the Anna-Theresa had been in port since February 22, 2022, and the Ocean Courtesy from February 16 of the same year.
LSEG interactive map data showed the two vessels more than 10km from the shore on Friday, under way using their engines and heading south-east.
Also on Friday, it was announced that Russian President Vladimir Putin will host Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan for talks next week, just over six weeks after Moscow broke off the grain deal brokered by Ankara and the UN.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin and Erdogan would meet on Monday in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi.
The announcement ended weeks of speculation about when and where the two leaders might meet next as international efforts continue to patch up the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which got agrain and other food to parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia where hunger is a growing threat.
Turkey, together with the United Nations, brokered the deal in July 2022 that allowed Ukraine to resume shipping foodstuffs from three Black Sea ports. Under the initiative, ship and cargo inspections were overseen from Turkey, and vessels sailed to and from Ukraine from there. Almost 33,000 tons of grain left Ukraine while the agreement was in effect.
This week, the US envoy to the European Union dismissed concerns over the pace of Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russia, recalling the challenge the US and its allies faced in World War II.
The Ukrainians have “the courage and the incentive and the determination to win, and they will,” Ambassador Mark Gitenstein said.
More than two months into Ukraine’s counteroffensive, the country’s allies have been worrying about the pace of the advance, fearing a protracted fight may strengthen Russian President Vladimir Putin’s hand.
Gitenstein compared the situation to the struggle the US and its allies had encountered before ultimately triumphing in World War II. “You would have thrown your hands up in despair,” the diplomat said, if updates on social media in real-time had been available during that conflict.
The ambassador called for investors to look for opportunities in Ukraine, saying the reconstruction process after the war will help to build an attractive investment environment in the country. “It will be the biggest such endeavor since the Marshall plan,” he said.