Russia and Ukraine clash in air assault duels behind the front lines

Russia and Ukraine targeted each other's territories on Sunday with drone attacks and airstrikes that hit urban centers and energy facilities, as both sides look for ways to inflict damage beyond the battlefield.

The Russian military said it shot down nearly 60 Ukrainian drones over the Krasnodar region in southwestern Russia, which Ukraine has increasingly targeted in recent weeks because it hosts energy and military facilities supporting combat operations .

Local Russian officials said an oil refinery was hit in the attack. A Ukrainian security official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive military matters, said Ukrainian drones hit the refinery and a military airfield in the region. Russian officials have not commented on the reported attack at the airport.

Ukrainian officials said Russia struck northeastern Ukraine, including the city of Kharkiv, killing at least 10 civilians and wounding more than 20 people. Russia has not commented on the attacks, which could not be independently confirmed. Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, has been hit by Russian missiles in recent months, in what military experts say is a Russian tactic intended to create panic and force residents to flee.

Attacks on logistics hubs and troop concentrations deep behind enemy lines have been a constant in this war. But it has become even more important for Ukraine as it seeks to relieve troops who are struggling to contain the Russian advance on the ground by disrupting Moscow's military operations.

Since the fall, Russia has had the upper hand on the battlefield, allowing it to launch assaults on different parts of the more than 600-mile-long front line to probe and break through Ukrainian defenses. More recently, it opened a new front in northeastern Ukraine, near Kharkiv, quickly capturing several settlements and forcing the Ukrainian army to redeploy units there from other battlefield hot spots.

Now, Russia is trying to make the most of the situation by breaking through the now thinned Ukrainian lines.

The Ukrainian General Staff reported that more than 80 Russian attacks occurred on Saturday. Many of them took place in the southeastern region of Donetsk, which Russia annexed in 2022 but does not fully control. Notably, the Ukrainian military said it repelled a major Russian attack involving tanks in Khasiv Yar, a Ukrainian stronghold that is one of Russia's main targets in the Donetsk region.

Over months of bloody attacks, Russia gradually retook Ukrainian territory. Pasi Paroinen, an analyst at the Finnish group Black Bird, which analyzes satellite images and battlefield combat footage, said Russia has gained more territory this year than it lost during Ukraine's summer counteroffensive last year .

Part of Ukraine's strategy to disrupt this slow but steady advance has been a sustained air campaign against Russian facilities that supply fuel and other refined petroleum products to tanks, ships and fighter planes.

Six Ukrainian drones struck an oil refinery in Slavyansk in Russia's Krasnodar region on Sunday, forcing the plant to halt operations, according to state news agency TASS.

The campaign also appears intended to weaken Russia's energy industry, which is at the heart of Russia's economy and war effort. The United States said in a report released last week that strikes had “disrupted about 14% of Russia's oil refining capacity” and that domestic gasoline and diesel prices had risen 20-30% by mid-March. % in Russia. The report only covered a two-month period, from the end of January to the end of March.

Russia also said Sunday it had intercepted nine Ukrainian missiles headed toward Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula that Moscow illegally annexed in 2014. Moscow has turned the peninsula into a military logistics hub to funnel troops and ammunition to the battlefield in the south . It has also been used as a launch pad for drone and missile attacks.

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