A series of attacks deep inside Russia this week have raised the stakes for Moscow at a time when its war on Ukraine is faltering.
Russia has said that Ukrainian drones carried out three strikes on its air bases, yet two of the targets are hundreds of miles inside Russian territory and beyond the reach of Ukraine’s declared drone arsenal.
Here is what we know so far.
Russian state media reported that three people were killed and six injured on Monday when a fuel truck exploded in a strike at an airfield near the city of Ryazan, which lies around 120 miles (200 kilometers) southeast of Moscow.
Russia said a second drone flew to the city of Engels, around 500 miles southeast of the capital, before attacking an air base with the same name. Regional Governor Roman Busargin said on Telegram that no civilian infrastructure was damaged but “information about incidents at military facilities is being checked by law enforcement agencies.”
On Tuesday, Russia announced that an airfield in the Kursk region, which neighbors Ukraine, was targeted in another drone attack. An oil tanker caught fire after the strike, according to Regional Governor Roman Starovoit.
Starovoit said on Telegram that there were no casualties and added that emergency services were on site.
What does Russia say?
The Russian Defense Ministry has blamed the attacks on Ukraine. In a statement published by the official Russian news agency RIA Novosti, the ministry said the raids had been intercepted by its air defenses.
“On the morning of December 5, the (Kyiv) regime, in order to disable Russian long-range aircraft, attempted to strike with Soviet-made jet unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) at the Diaghilevo military airfields in the Ryazan region and Engels in the Saratov region,” the statement said.
What does Ukraine say?
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry has offered no comment on the explosions. Officially, the targets are well beyond the reach of the country’s declared drones.
However, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted a cryptic message on Tuesday, hinting at the possibility that Kyiv was indeed behind the attacks.
“The Earth is round – discovery made by Galileo. Astronomy was not studied in Kremlin, giving preference to court astrologers. If it was, they would know: If something is launched into other countries’ airspace, sooner or later unknown flying objects will return to departure point,” he said.
What do we know about Ukraine’s drone capabilities?
The United States and other allies have been supplying Ukraine with a range of weapons and ammunition to help it defend itself against Russia.
However, they have so far refused to provide Kyiv with long-range attack drones, fearing that strikes inside Russian territory would escalate the war and draw them directly into a conflict with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Ukrainian government has not acknowledged adding such drones to its arsenal, but the Ukrainian state-owned weapons manufacturer Ukroboronprom has indicated several times in the past few weeks that it was close to finishing work on a new long-range drone.
In October, it posted an image of what appeared to be part of the drone’s structure on Facebook, saying: “Range is 1,000 kilometers, weight of the combat unit is 75 kg. Putting the final touches on this one.”
A month later, on November 24, the company said it was getting ready to conduct flight tests.
And on Saturday, state news agency Ukrinform quoted company spokeswoman Natalia Sad as saying that “a number of stages of successful tests have been completed.”
However, there is no public indication that the drone in question has been readied for deployment or was involved in the explosions inside Russia.
CNN’s Sebastian Shukla, Olga Voitovych, Sana Noor Haq and Tara John contributed reporting.