Attack on complex, which reportedly manufactures combat drones, demonstrates Kyiv’s increasing long-range capabilities

Marc Bennetts

April 2, 2024

The Times


Ukraine has carried out its deepest strike inside Russia since the start of the war, shortly after Kyiv said it had developed drones that could hit targets further from its borders than ever before.  Video showed a large drone crashing into a group of buildings at a factory complex in Yelabuga, a town in the Russian Republic of Tatarstan that is about 800 miles from the border with Ukraine.  Seven people were injured, Russian officials said. They said the drone had targeted a dormitory for workers.

Russia was reported last year to have launched the mass production of combat drones using Iranian technology at the factories. Students from a nearby college were press-ganged into working at the facilities, opposition media reported.

Rustam Minnikhanov, the head of the Republic of Tatarstan, said production at the facilities had not been disrupted, but made no mention of drones.

An oil refinery that is one of Russia’s largest and newest was also hit in the nearby city of Nizhnekamsk.

A Ukrainian military intelligence source told Reuters that “significant damage” had been caused. Kyiv has carried out an increasing number of strikes on Russian oil refineries, including in St Petersburg, 775 miles from the Ukrainian border.

The attacks came after Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s digital minister, said that Kyiv was now producing ten times as many long-range drones as last year. “Most of the drones that attacked Russian oil refineries have a range of 700 to 1,000km, but now there are models that can fly over 1,000km,” he told Die Welt, the German newspaper.

Andrey Kartapolov, the head of the Russian parliament’s defence committee, said on Tuesday that Ukrainian “drone mayhem” would only end “when we take Kyiv”.

His comments came after Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of the Russian Security Council, accused Nato of being “actively involved” in attacks on Russian territory. Patrushev, one of President Putin’s closest allies, also said that Nato was “de facto” at war with Russia.

The strikes have prompted Washington to urge Ukraine to call off the attacks over fears that they would drive up global oil prices and provoke Russian retaliation against energy infrastructure relied on by the west, according to the Financial Times. “We do not encourage or enable the Ukrainian military to conduct strikes inside Russia,” John Kirby, the White House national security adviser, said.

A row in the US Congress over additional funding for Ukraine has handed Russia the upper hand on the battlefield, with Putin’s forces making slow but steady advances in recent weeks. President Zelensky warned last week that Ukraine would be forced to retreat, if supplies of American weapons are not restarted soon.

Mike Johnson, the US House Speaker, said on Sunday that a vote on the $65 billion military aid package will be held within the next two weeks. The exact details of the bill are unknown, however, and he could face a challenge to his leadership from Republicans opposed to the aid package if he goes ahead with the vote.


Marc Bennetts has been covering Russia and the former Soviet Union, including Ukraine, for The Times and Sunday Times since 2015. He has reported from all across Russia, from Chechnya to deepest Siberia. He has also reported from Iran and North Korea. Marc is the author of two books: I’m Going to Ruin Their Lives, about Putin’s crackdown on the opposition, and Football Dynamo, about Russian football culture. He is now writing a thriller, set during the polar night in Russia’s far north.