Ukraine war: Drone hits Russia oil depot; Moscow accuses Kyiv of 'nuclear terrorism' at Zaporizhzhia

Ukraine war: Drone hits Russia oil depot; Moscow accuses Kyiv of 'nuclear terrorism' at Zaporizhzhia

1. Drone strike hits third Russian airfield near Kursk

A drone strike hit a third Russian airfield on Tuesday, one day after Ukraine was accused of targeting two military bases deep into Russian territory.

The latest attack was confirmed by officials in the southern Russian city of Kursk, around 100 kilometers from the Ukrainian border.

The regional governor said the strike had ignited an oil storage tank, but there were no casualties.

Images released by Russian media showed black smoke rising from the airfield in the early morning hours of Tuesday.

Two strikes on Monday hit the Engels air base, which hosts Russia's fleet of giant strategic bombers, and in Ryazan, where Russian authorities said three service personnel died.

Russian President Vladimir Putin convened a meeting of his Security Council on Tuesday to discuss issues related to "internal security", according to Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.

Moscow says the strikes were conducted using Soviet-era drones. Kyiv has not directly claimed responsibility for the strikes but has celebrated them.

The New York Times, citing a senior Ukrainian official, said the drones involved in Monday's attacks were launched from Ukrainian territory, and at least one of the strikes was made with the help of special forces close to the base.

In response, Russia's defence ministry claimed to have struck Ukraine's military command system on Monday with a massive high-precision strike.

"If Russia assesses the incidents were deliberate attacks, it will probably consider them as some of the most strategically significant failures of force protection since its invasion of Ukraine," the UK defense ministry said on Tuesday.

Ukraine's military intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov has also said that Moscow's military stocks are coming to an end, though he added that the country has enough high-precision missiles to conduct several more big air strikes on Ukraine before it runs out.

2. Ukraine races to restore power as Zelenskyy visits Donbas

Ukrainian officials have warned that emergency blackouts will once again take place in several regions on Tuesday following the latest trikes.

At least four people were killed on Monday as Russian rockets hit several cities, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.

"In many regions, there will have to be emergency blackouts. We will be doing everything to restore stability."

Ukraine's Energy Minister German Galushchenko said power generators and substations in Kyiv, Vinnytsia, and Odesa in the south had suffered the worst damage.

About half the region surrounding the Ukrainian capital will remain without electricity for the coming days, according to the Kyiv regional governor.

Ukraine's air force command claims to have shot down more than 60 of over 70 missiles launched by Russia on Monday.

The strikes targeted once again Ukraine's energy infrastructure, threatening to leave the country in the dark on one of the coldest days of the year so far.

"Air defences shot down most of the rockets, and energy workers have already started to restore electricity," Zelenskyy said.

Moscow denies targeting Ukrainian civilians but said their suffering would not end unless Kyiv yielded to Russia's demands.

Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP
A Ukrainian soldier takes a selfie with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on his visit to Sloviansk. - Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP

On Tuesday, Zelensky visited Sloviansk in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region on Armed Forces Day to salute his country's military from the "bottom of his heart".

"We always start by remembering our fallen heroes, all those who gave their lives to Ukraine," he said, according to video on social media.

Unlike Putin, Zelensky has visited the frontline many times since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

Sloviansk is also located 45 kilometres from Bakhmut, where intense fighting has been raging for several weeks.

3. Russia accuses Ukraine of 'nuclear terrorism' over shelling of Zaporizhzhia plant

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has accused Kyiv of "nuclear terrorism," saying that Ukraine was continuing to shell the Zaporizhzhia power plant

Moscow and Kyiv have repeatedly blamed each other for shelling near the plant, which has raised concerns of a possible nuclear catastrophe.

On Tuesday, Shoigu said that Ukraine had fired 33 large-calibre shells at the plant in the last two weeks. He claimed that most were intercepted by Russian air defences, but added that "some still hit objects that affect the safe operation of the nuclear power plant."

The minister said that Russian forces were taking "all measures" to ensure the safety of the power plant in the face of Kyiv's alleged attacks, which Moscow sees as "nuclear terrorism."

Ukraine denies targeting the facility, which has been under the control of Russian forces since the beginning of the invasion.

Local Ukrainian officials have said that Russia shelled towns overnight near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, leaving more than 9,000 homes without running water.

Kyiv has also accused Moscow of using the plant as a de facto weapons depot.

The United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency is pushing to create a security zone around the plant, but the idea has yet to be implemented.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Tuesday there were "positive dynamics" in discussions with the IAEA on the idea, according to the TASS state news agency.

A Russian-appointed official in Donetsk also claimed that at least six people were killed in a bombing raid on the city on Tuesday.

AP, File
A Russian serviceman guards an area of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station. - AP, File

4. Russia and Ukraine each exchange 60 prisoners of war

Russia and Ukraine reported on Tuesday they had exchanged 60 prisoners of war in the latest of a series of such swaps.

Russia's defence ministry said the 60 freed Russian soldiers would be flown to Moscow to receive medical care and psychological support.

Ukraine's presidential chief of staff Andriy Yermak also hailed the returning Ukrainians as heroes and said they included dozens who had held out in the city of Mariupol -- including the besieged Azovstal steelworks -- until Russia forced its surrender in May.

"We continue to return the defenders of Mariupol - in today's ‘list of 60’ there are 34 of them, including 14 from Azovstal," Yermak said.

"Some are wounded, and will receive all the necessary help in Ukraine," he added.

Some of those released had been held on Russian territory and others in Olenivka, a prisoner-of-war camp in the Russian-occupied Donetsk region of Ukraine, Yermak said.

The two sides have exchanged hundreds of prisoners in a series of swaps over the past several months.

Neither Russia nor Ukraine have released official figures on how many prisoners of war they have taken since the invasion began exactly nine months ago.

Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said last week that Russia had freed 1,319 prisoners since March.

5. Ukrainian embassies in Europe receive more 'bloody packages'

Ukrainian embassies in Romania and Denmark have received "bloody packages" similar to the ones sent to several Ukrainian diplomatic buildings last week, Ukraine's foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Tuesday.

On Friday, Ukraine's foreign ministry reported that Ukrainian embassies and consulates in seven European countries had received blood-stained parcels containing animal eyes.

No one has claimed responsibility for sending the packages, which have followed reports of letter bombs sent to the Ukrainian embassy in Madrid and other diplomatic buildings in Spain.

Kuleba has previously condemned the sending of the bloody packages as a "well-planned campaign of terror and intimidation of Ukrainian embassies and consulates".

On Monday, Spanish police also said they had intercepted three more envelopes containing animal eyes addressed to Ukraine’s embassy in Madrid and its consulates in Barcelona and Málaga.

A Ukrainian embassy employee in Madrid was injured last week by a letter bomb, which was addressed to Ukraine’s ambassador to Spain.

6. Russia continues manufacturing new missiles despite Western sanctions

Some of the cruise missiles that Russia launched on Ukraine's critical infrastructure on November 23 were recently manufactured, weapons investigators in Kyiv have found.

A report released on Monday found that one of the missiles which knocked out power and caused water shortages in Kyiv was made this summer, while another one was manufactured after September -- months after the West imposed sanctions on Moscow.

Advanced guided missiles -- like the Kh-101 -- were used to target Ukraine's capital and other cities.

The findings prove that Russia has been able to circumvent the sanctions and get hold of components necessary to make the munitions.

The Conflict Armament Research group, the Britain-based independent group which conducted the research, also suggested that Russia may have had a stockpile before the measures were imposed.

Meanwhile, opposition representatives from five Russian regional councils have sent appeals urging President Putin to end the country's 'partial' military mobilisation.

Critics say the absence of a presidential decree means those already drafted could not leave the armed forces.

The Russian Defence Ministry announced the end of the call-up of 300,000 reservists on October 31 after weeks of chaos in which hundreds of thousands of Russians fled the country and numerous reports emerged of the wrong men being drafted.