Russian President Vladimir Putin said in February that the country’s top priority was preventing shelling of Russian territories. Nevertheless, Russian regions are being targeted by attacks more frequently. Local authorities reported a record high of 74 strikes in February 2023 alone. Novaya-Europe tallied all the reports and concluded that Russian territories (including annexed Crimea) were targeted at least 480 times since the start of the war. Russia’s central regions — Ryazan, Tula, and Moscow regions — come under attack more and more often. In total, 195 people fell victim to these attacks, 43 of them were killed.
Novaya-Europe earlier reported that Russian governors had been reporting shelling attacks sometimes several times a day since the early autumn. In March 2023, Ukraine struck Russian regions and Crimea twice a day on average, and the record-breaking number of shelling operations was observed in February. The past three months of the war account for 40% of all Ukrainian air attacks. Russian territories are targeted 10-15 times more frequently than they were in the beginning of the invasion.
Russia’s border-adjacent regions can easily be reached with artillery and mortar weapons and, therefore, are shelled daily: the Belgorod, Kursk, and Bryansk regions have been bombed around 400 times since the war began.
At the same time, Ukrainian troops are increasingly targeting facilities situated deep within Russia.
- On 28 February, a Ukrainian drone managed to reach the Moscow region. It was found 100 km away from a gas pipeline that delivers the fuel to Moscow.
- Unidentified drone debris was found in Adygea on the same day. The Russian Defence Ministry reported about two drones that were successfully thrown off course as they were approaching a “civilian infrastructure facility”.
- On 26 March, a Ukrainian drone loaded with explosives blew up in Kireevsk, a town in Russia’s Tula region. Three people were injured, residential buildings were damaged.
Over the course of the war, according to our data, at least 1,264 civilian buildings were damaged in attacks on Russia, as well as 173 infrastructure facilities, mostly power lines.
In particular, 108,000 square metres of residences (this amounts to nearly 3,000 flats and private houses) need restoration in the Belgorod region, the governor said in February. The region has already spent 600 million rubles (€6.9 million) to repair more than 2,000 rooms and premises and is planning to allocate 9.4 billion rubles (€108 million) more.
- The village of Tetkino in the Kursk region (population of 3,800) has been shelled at least 32 times since the war began. On 23 February and 2 March 2023, 11 Ukrainian projectiles struck the village to destroy around 20 residential houses, a preschool, and power lines. Two men were injured, one of them died later. The Tetkino residents were pleading with authorities to get evacuated back in May but only 29 people were relocated to temporary residence points.
- On 22 March, the Ukrainian army attacked the village of Borisovka, Belgorod region. Shells damaged a gas pipeline, power lines, several residential houses, and a large agricultural facility, its security guard was killed in the attack.
- Belgorod was bombed three times in March 2023 alone. Despite the air defence systems, Ukrainian projectiles drop on residential buildings and administrative premises of the city. On 13 March, four drones were downed in Belgorod’s neighbourhoods. One Belgorod resident was severely injured and rushed to hospital with a head trauma.
In 2023, 38 people were affected by Ukrainian attacks, most of them being residents of border-adjacent villages and towns. The total number of casualties following these strikes stands at 195; 43 of them were killed.
Ukraine targets Russia’s military facilities and transport communications, military analyst Yuri Fedorov explains. “The point is not just to strike a village with a missile. If it does happen, it’s just a miss because there’s no point for the Ukrainian army to waste expensive missiles on residential buildings. The main goal is to damage transport nodes and bring down ammo deliveries to the frontlines. Since Russia regularly strikes civilian targets in Ukraine, Kyiv has moral and legal grounds to retaliate.”
The new US military aid package for Ukraine which was approved by the Pentagon in early February will include 150-km-range missiles, twice the range that the Ukraine employs now: HIMARS rockets only travel up to 77 km. The new weapon will make all Russian supply lines in eastern Ukraine and part of occupied Crimea vulnerable. Per Bloomberg reports, the missile deliveries will begin in autumn. Moreover, Ukrainian entrepreneur Dmytro Shymkiv announced that his company AeroDrone had begun the routine manufacturing of drones for the Ukrainian army that can cover distances up to 3,100 km (for instance, there’s only 756 km between Kyiv and Moscow).
“A drone is not a very complicated machine but it is difficult to acquire a target with it. Ukraine currently cannot establish satellite connection for drones, they can only follow their set course. This guidance system is difficult to create and train,” Yuri Fedorov notes.
By launching drones towards Russia’s central regions, according to the expert, Kyiv is practising using its guidance systems to comfortably strike military, industrial, and state facilities inside the country in the future.
“The Russian air-defence system is far from perfect, it has a lot of holes. Ukrainian drones now need to find flight trajectories that make it possible to evade areas protected by air defence systems,” Fedorov says. “In theory, the Ukrainian army can use Ukraine-made drones to strike the Russian Defence Ministry and the Kremlin. Moscow understands this and has already deployed air defence systems inside the city.”
With contributions from Lyubov Borisenko and Dmitry Sazhin.
Read more about people living under shelling in Russian villages that border Ukraine here.
Join us in rebuilding Novaya Gazeta Europe
The Russian government has banned independent media. We were forced to leave our country in order to keep doing our job, telling our readers about what is going on Russia, Ukraine and Europe.
We will continue fighting against warfare and dictatorship. We believe that freedom of speech is the most efficient antidote against tyranny. Support us financially to help us fight for peace and freedom.