Putin ducking drone attacks, Russians hint invasion may bloom into WWIII

This image taken from Telegram shows a drone that was purportedly shot down near a Gazprom facility near Moscow.

This image taken from Telegram shows a drone that was purportedly shot down near a Gazprom facility near Moscow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered military officers to tighten control of the border with Ukraine following a succession of drone attacks that are creating a security challenge for Moscow a year after it launched an unwarranted invasion its neighbor, which was once a constituent republic of the Soviet Union.

Russian broadcasters hint that Western support for Ukrainian defense against the invasion could potentially escalate, creating risk of a nuclear apocalypse causing widespread destruction of Earth’s civilization.

One drone crashed on Tuesday just 60 miles southeast of the Russian capital Moscow, while two more were brought down in the southern part of the country, according to the defense ministry.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is growing frustrated as his invading forces have been forced to retreat some parts of Ukraine and a succession of drone attacks that are creating a security challenge for Moscow, necessitating an even harsher crackdown on dissent.

Authorities closed the airspace over the northern city of St Petersburg in response to what some reports said was a drone, while several Russian television stations broadcast a missile attack warning that officials later blamed on computer hackers.

Following the reports of drones operating over Russian soil, explosions were reportedly heard near a military airbase used by Moscow’s forces close to the Ukrainian border.

According to sources in Russia, Moscow Oblast Governer Andrey Vorobyov announced today that a drone has crashed near the village of Gubastovo, less than 60 miles from Moscow.

A senior Russian official said that the Ukrainian UJ-22 drone was attempting to attack a Gazprom energy facility deep inside the country.

The apparent target was a gas compression station owned and operated by the Russian energy giant. Corporate representatives from Gazprom state that the drone never made it to its intended target, instead flying low and clipping trees before it impacted a fence just outside the grounds of the facility.

Ukraine does not claim responsibility for drone attacks inside Russia.

Russian energy giant Gazprom operates a facility near the village of Gubastovo, about 62 miles from Moscow, where the drone crashed.

Gazprom told Russian state-run news agency RIA Novosti that its operations in the Kolomna district had not been interrupted.

Meanwhile, a Russian TV host suggested that Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Romania and Bulgaria could come under attack by Kremlin forces.

“We are not going to occupy anything, we are going to liberate,” says Russian propagandist Vladimir Rudolfovich Solovyov, who ticked off a list of at least five members of the United Nations, NATO, the European Union, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and the Council of Europe.

An attack on any NATO country would result in a war pitting Russia against the entire 30-state alliance, including three countries equipped with nuclear weapons: the United States, France and the United Kingdom.

The Kremlin may leverage an amendment to Russia’s Criminal Code increasing punishments for “discrediting” the war in Ukraine to promote further self-censorship among the critical ultranationalist community, prompting pushback from Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin and prominent military news bloggers.

Russian State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin said lawmakers could ratify amendments allowing harsher punishments for discrediting participants of the Russian “special military operation,” including “volunteers,” —meaning Wagner Group irregular army troops fighting in Ukraine—as soon as March 14.

Volodin stated punishments would include a fine of up to five million rubles (about $66,450), five years of correctional or forced labor, or a sentence of 15 years in prison.

Putin previously said that authorities must “identify and stop illegal activities of those who are trying to weaken [Russian] society” and identify those who “use separatism, nationalism, neo-Nazism as a weapon.”

Putin also signed a law suspending his country’s participation in New START, a pivotal nuclear arms treaty with the United States. The treaty limits the number of nuclear warheads both Russia and the United States are allowed to deploy, and it was first signed in 2010.

The United States strongly condemned Russia’s decision to pull out of the treaty, with President Joe Biden saying his Russian counterpart had made a “big mistake”.

In advance of expected counter-offensives, the Institute for the Study of War said Russian military officials accused the “US and its accomplices” of planning to carry out a provocation in Ukraine using toxic chemicals.

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