On Monday, two Russian military airbases hundreds of kilometers from the border with Ukraine were rocked by explosions, according to local officials and state media.
The unexplained blasts were reported at bases involved in launching strikes against Ukraine just hours before the latest barrage of Russian airstrikes forced residents of the capital Kyiv and cities across the country to take shelter as sirens blared.
Power and water cuts were felt from Sumy in the northeast to Odessa in the southwest, while at least two people were killed in the southern city of Zaporizhzhia, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the president’s office, said in a Telegram. after.
Moscow has consistently denied targeting civilians, but while such attacks have become an increasingly common feature of the Kremlin’s war, detonations deep inside Russia are more unusual.
Multiple explosions occurred Monday morning at Engels Air Base near the city of Saratov in southwestern Russia, local media reported, with residents reportedly hearing a loud noise.
Russian authorities said they were investigating media reports of the explosions at the base. It houses the Tu-95 and Tu-160 nuclear-capable strategic bombers that were involved in carrying out strikes against Ukraine, according to the Associated Press.
“There is information about a loud explosion and a flash in early morning in English that is spreading on social networks and the media,” Saratov governor Roman Busargin said in a statement. after on Telegram. “There is no cause for alarm. No civilian infrastructure object has been damaged,” he said.
Separately, a fuel truck exploded at an airport near the western Russian city of Ryazan, a spokesman for the emergency services told the state news agency. RIA Novosti. At least three servicemen were killed and three others injured, and one aircraft was also damaged, they said.
The base houses long-range flight tankers that serve to refuel bombers in the air, the AP said.
Ryazan officials have not commented on the blast and NBC News has not verified the reports.
The origin of the explosions remained unclear, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying only that President Vladimir Putin “regularly receives information” when asked about the blasts in his daily press appeal.
While Ukraine has not taken responsibility, officials made vague references in social media posts hinting that the incident could potentially signal another opportunity for Kiev to strike deep into Russia. Both airbases are more than 300 miles from the border.
“The Earth is round – discovery by Galileo. Astronomy was not studied in the Kremlin, preferring court astrologers. If so, they would know: if something is launched into the skies of other countries, unknown flying objects will soon or late return to the point of departure,” presidential adviser Mykhaylo Podolyak said in a statement. tweet.
“The Engels airfield is one of the most important bases of the Russian air force,” Anton Gerashchenko, adviser to the Ukrainian interior ministry, said in a statement. tweet. “Two regiments of strategic bombers are stationed here, which are part of Russia’s nuclear deterrent tactics,” he said.
Moscow has lost more than 60 aircraft since the war began on Feb. 24, the British Defense Ministry said in its statement on Monday. update informationadding that air missions had dropped from 300 a day to just ten a day in March.
In a separate tweetit also said Ukraine had regained control of more than half of its territory that Russia had captured since February.
Analysts said it was unclear that the new wave of Russian attacks was in any way a retaliation for the blasts at the air bases.
“They’re going to attack the country as much as they can,” Rajan Menon, a director of Defense Priorities, a Washington-based think tank, told NBC News in a call from Kiev. “Without the attack on the base, they would have found other reasons to do this,” he said.
Artem Grudinin contributed.