In a significant escalation of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, Ukrainian forces launched a daring missile strike targeting a military airfield inside Russia.
The airfield reportedly houses Vladimir Putin’s supersonic Tu-22M3 strategic bombers.
The strike, which took place during the night, was captured on footage that showed a suspected modified S-200 missile causing a massive explosion near the Shaykovka military airfield, situated southwest of Moscow.
Russian Claims and Uncertain Damage Assessment
Russian authorities quickly responded, asserting that they had successfully shot down the incoming S-200 missile.
However, as of now, there is no independent confirmation regarding the extent of the damage inflicted by the attack.
The missile strike occurred during what is believed to be one of the busiest nights of Ukrainian assaults on Russian and Russian-held territories throughout the course of the conflict.
Aviation Disruption and Air Defense Action
The aftermath of the strike led to significant disruptions in air travel.
Two major international airports in Moscow, Vnukovo and Domodedovo, were temporarily closed, affecting both incoming and outgoing flights.
Simultaneously, Russian air defense systems were activated in the Tula region, situated to the south of the Russian capital.
These actions were in response to suspected drone attacks, particularly in the bordering Kaluga region.
Russian sources reported an unprecedented swarm of 42 Ukrainian drones targeting the annexed Black Sea peninsula Crimea.
Of these, nine were shot down, while 33 others were neutralized through electronic warfare methods.
Nonetheless, there remains a lack of independent verification regarding the outcomes of this mass drone offensive.
Coordinated Attacks and Special Forces Operations
The missile strike was only one facet of the wider coordinated Ukrainian attacks.
Prior to this incident, Ukrainian special forces executed a daring operation in which they raised their flag on the annexed Crimea.
This maneuver followed an attack on Russian positions that resulted in the destruction of an entire division at Cape Tarkhankut in temporarily occupied Crimea.
Ukrainian Intelligence Chief Kyrylo Budanov reported that this operation had been successfully halted.
Ukrainian Claims and Russian Responses
Ukrainian authorities claimed to have destroyed at least two Tu-22M3 nuclear-capable bombers in the days leading up to the missile strike on Shaykovka airfield.
In response, the Russian defense ministry stated that the attempt by the Kyiv regime to carry out terrorist attacks against civilian targets using an upgraded S-200 air defense system had been thwarted.
The missile was reportedly intercepted and destroyed over the Kaluga region.
Ukraine had previously asserted that attacks on Shaykovka and Soltsy airbases had already resulted in the destruction of two Tu-22M3 bombers.
These actions reduced the total number of operational bombers to 27, according to Ukrainian military intelligence.
Background and Consequences
The Shaykovka military airfield strike and the broader conflict can be traced back to earlier events.
Ukraine’s attacks on Shaykovka airfield appear to be retaliation for Russia’s launch of four Kh-22 air cruise missiles towards Ukraine on August 15.
The Russian airfield had been instrumental in launching long-range bombers to target various locations since the inception of the conflict.
The Tupolev Tu-22M3 bombers, particularly deployed during the destructive siege of Mariupol, have become a hallmark of Russian air power.
Over 60 of these bombers are currently believed to be operational.
As tensions escalate and military actions intensify, the region continues to face profound uncertainty and the potential for further conflict.
The missile strike on the Russian airfield housing strategic bombers marks a critical juncture in the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.