Images appeared on both Ukrainian and Russian social media on Saturday, Aug. 19 that showed a Tu-22M3 strategic bomber burning at the Soltsy-2 airbase, after apparently being hit by an early morning drone strike.

Soviet-era Tu-22M3 bombers, which fly at Mach 2 have been used to launch missile attacks against civilian targets in Ukraine, primarily using “re-purposed” Kh-22s and Kh-32 heavy anti-ship missiles. One such attack in January this year struck a block of flats in Dnipro killing over 50 civilians.

Russia’s Defense Ministry later confirmed the drone attack saying: “At around 10:00 Moscow time today, the Kyiv regime carried out a terrorist attack using a copter-type UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] against a military airfield in the Novgorod region.

“The UAV was detected by the airfield’s observation outpost and was hit with small arms fire.”

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The statement only admitted to one aircraft being “damaged” and said that the only fire had occurred in the car park and was quickly extinguished. War blogger reports on Telegram suggested that two of the aircraft had been damaged.

Soltsy-2 air base, home to Russia’s 840th Heavy Bomber Regiment, is located some 650 kilometers north of Ukraine. Commentators on social media quickly zeroed in on the attack being attributed to “a copter type UAV” which would have a relatively short operational range, suggesting the attack was launched from within Russia. This in turn gave rise to speculation that it was carried out either by Ukrainian special forces or a partisan group operating deep within Russia.

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Kyiv Post’s HUR sources confirm that on Wednesday morning its drones hit a Russian factory in Kazan where Tu-22M and Tu-160M bombers are built and repaired.

Andrii Yusov, a representative of Ukraine’s Directorate of Military Intelligence (HUR) claimed that the attacks were carried out by groups working with his department: “There are people who, in coordination with the HUR, have completed the assigned tasks. They came from central Russia, worked hard and successfully returned.”

Yusov added that the HUR continues to coordinate and perform tasks on the territory of the aggressor country of Russia.

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On Monday, Aug 21 there appeared to be a repetition of the drone attack against Tu-22M3s, this time on the Shaikovka airbase in the Kaluga region. This was reported on several Russian propaganda channels as a failed “drone attack on the airfield.”

No photos or videos from this airfield or other details have yet been obtained, but Russian authorities later claimed that a “kamikaze drone” had crashed [at the Shaikovka airbase] this morning, and an aircraft that was “not in use” was allegedly damaged as a result of the crash. Social commentary questioned the veracity of this as the Soltsy-2 statement spoke only of a damaged aircraft when it had obviously been destroyed.

A number of Russian sites claimed that the drones should have been unable to enter the territory of military airbases so easily and blamed it on the fact that so many of the airfield guard force had been sent to participate in the so-called “special military operation.”

Later, on Saturday, the Twitter account of Olga Honcharenko, @olga_pp98, who calls herself an “HF radio observer” monitoring Russian strategic aviation reported that at least six Tu-22M3 aircraft had left Soltsy-2 and relocated to the Olenya air base on the Kola Peninsula. Russia had previously relocated almost a dozen Tu-16 and Tu-95 strategic bombers to Olenya following Ukrainian drone strikes against the Engels air base in the Saratov region.

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The Olenya airbase is located about an hour’s drive south of Murmansk and is around 150 kilometers from Finland, Russia’s new border with NATO. Moscow has recorded an increase in US surveillance aircraft activity in the region since Finland joined the Alliance on April 4.

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