Leave it to Beaver: Largest wave of drone strikes yet, hit strategic targets deep inside Russia

Eyewitness accounts and videos corroborate claims that an extensive drone assault targeted six Russian regions in the early hours of Wednesday. This incident marked the most significant drone attack on Russian territory since the commencement of Moscow's war of aggression in Ukraine 18 months ago.

The drones struck an airport situated in the western Pskov region, resulting in a substantial fire, as reported by local media and the regional governor. Reports from the Defense Ministry indicated that additional drones were intercepted over the areas of Oryol, Bryansk, Ryazan, Kaluga, and the Moscow region encompassing the Russian capital.

The airport strike in Pskov occurred just before midnight and impacted the airport in the region's eponymous capital, causing damage to four Il-76 transport aircraft. According to the Russian state news agency Tass, as cited by emergency officials, Pskov's regional Governor Mikhail Vedernikov promptly suspended all flights to and from the airport on Wednesday to assess the extent of the damage during daylight hours. Internet users were quick to point out that recent satellite photos of Pskov show as many as 22 transport aircraft, mostly of the Il-76 style, on the tarmac in Pskov. While these photos are a few days old at the time of the strikes, it highlights a logistical buildup in the Pskov region, which lies just across the border from NATO member Estonia.      

22 airframes spotted using Sentinel Hub EO Browser. Source: Twitter/X

Images and videos circulating on social media depicted smoke billowing over Pskov city and a significant blaze at the scene. A government official claimed that no casualties were reported, and the fire had been contained. Other unverified reports speculated that around 10 to 20 drones might have participated in the airport attack.

Pskov was the sole region where damage was confirmed. Russian military sources reported drones over the Bryansk region, Oryol, Ryazan, Kaluga and Moscow regions. Authorities reported no casualties or damages in these areas, although some residents in the Bryansk region claimed to have heard a loud explosion.

Ukrainian officials refrained from confirming any role in the strikes, maintaining their consistent stance of non-involvement in attacks on Russian soil.

In another development early Wednesday, officials appointed by Russia in the annexed Crimea reported repelling a drone assault targeting the harbor of Sevastopol, a port city. Previously, Russia has accused Ukraine's ally, Canada, of supplying parts for both propulsion and guidance of the Ukrainian maritime drone fleet. The Moscow-appointed Governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozzhayev, stated that the extent of drone destruction remained unclear, and any potential damages were yet to be assessed.

Swarming drone attacks on both Crimea and Russian territories have become increasingly frequent in recent months, with Moscow and regions bordering Ukraine bearing the brunt of such attacks. Locations like Bryansk have experienced strikes on fuel depots and airfields, which Russian authorities have attributed to Kyiv.

The Oryol and Kaluga regions share borders with Bryansk, while the Moscow region lies atop Kaluga. In contrast, Pskov, positioned approximately 700 kilometers (434 miles) north of the Russian-Ukrainian border, near Estonia and Latvia, was considered an unlikely target by Russian media and military analysts on Wednesday morning.

The Pro-Russia fifth column commentators on social media have expressed a belief that attacks must have originated within NATO territory in Estonia, citing as their sole evidence, the 600km flight path across Belarus which the Pskov drone-bombs would have to have taken.

Was it the "Beaver"?

The "Bober" (Ukrainian: Бобер, derived from 'Beaver') stands as a distinctive variant of a Ukrainian long-range loitering munition, commonly referred to as a suicide drone or drone-bomb. In December 2022, the Telegram channel "Lachen Pyshe" initiated a public fundraising campaign named "Hovor Khell," with the objective of developing a domestic unmanned aerial vehicle for Ukraine's Main Directorate of Intelligence (HUR).

In May 2023, the channel unveiled photographs, confirming the drone's existence and its active utilization in inflicting losses upon Russian forces amid the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War. Notably, on May 30, the drone played a pivotal role in executing a series of drone strikes in the outskirts of Moscow. This particular drone boasts an operational range estimated to fall between 600 and 1,000 kilometers, housing a KZ-6 shaped charge as its warhead.

Meanwhile, in Ukraine, reports emerged of explosions in various areas, including the southern city of Odesa, the Cherkasy region, and Kyiv. Vitali Klitschko, the Mayor of Kyiv, confirmed that debris fell in two districts of the capital, although he did not specify whether the debris originated from a missile, drone, or both.