Moscow says 50 Ukrainian drones shot down as attacks spark fires at Russian power stations

Ukraine has launched a barrage of drones across Russia overnight in attacks that appeared to target the country’s energy infrastructure

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine launched a barrage of drones across Russia overnight, the Defense Ministry in Moscow said Saturday, in attacks that appeared to target the country's energy infrastructure.

Fifty drones were shot down by air defences over eight Russian regions, including 26 over the country’s western Belgorod region close to the Ukrainian border. Two people — a woman with a broken leg and the man caring for her — died during the overnight barrage, after explosions sparked a blaze that set their home alight, Belgorod Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov wrote on social media.

A pregnant woman and her unborn child were also killed in shelling later Saturday, he said.

Drones were also reportedly destroyed over the Bryansk, Kursk, Tula, Smolensk, Ryazan and Kaluga regions across Russia’s west and south, and in the Moscow region.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said that it had shot down a Ukrainian Sukhoi Su-25 fighter jet. It provided no details and the claims couldn't be independently verified.

Ukrainian officials normally decline to comment about attacks on Russian soil. However, many of the drone strikes appeared to be directed toward Russia’s energy infrastructure.

The head of the Kaluga region, Vladislav Shapsha, said that a drone strike had sparked a blaze at an electrical substation, while Bryansk Gov. Alexander Bogomaz and Smolensk Gov. Vasily Anokhin also reported fires at fuel and energy complexes.

In recent months, Russian refineries and oil terminals have become priority targets of Ukrainian drone attacks, part of stepped-up assaults on Russian territory.

Ukrainian drone developers have been extending the weapons' range for months, as Kyiv attempts to compensate for its battlefield disadvantage in weapons and troops. The unmanned aerial vehicles are also an affordable option while Ukraine waits for more U.S. military aid.

Moscow said Friday evening that an American citizen known to have fought with Kremlin-backed separatists in Ukraine between 2014 and 2017 had died in the Russian-occupied Donetsk region.

Russell Bentley, 64, was no longer involved in military operations and previously worked for state-owned Russian news agency Sputnik. His death was confirmed by his former battalion and by Margarita Simonyan, head of the state-funded television channel RT, who described him as “a real American." He used the call sign “Texas” and had spent time in prison on charges of drug smuggling before leaving the United States.

No information has been released as to the cause of Bentley’s death, but local police had previously reported the American as missing on April 8.

Meanwhile, Russia attacked Ukraine overnight with seven missiles, and air defences downed two missiles and three reconnaissance drones, the Ukrainian air force said Saturday.

Gov. Oleh Kiper, head of Ukraine’s Odesa region, said that ballistic missiles had damaged infrastructure overnight, but didn't provide further details. Previous attacks on the Black Sea city on Friday damaged port infrastructure, including two food export terminals, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.

Russian shelling also killed two men, including a 81-year-old retiree in the city of Vovchansk, said Gov. Oleh Syniehubov, head of Ukraine’s Kharkiv region.

A 60-year-old woman was wounded after shelling struck a nine-story apartment building, he said.

A 54-year-old man was also killed in shelling in the Dnipropetrovsk region, local governor Serhii Lysak said.

Alongside the attacks, Ukrainian police said they were hunting for two Ukrainian soldiers who killed a police officer at a checkpoint in the country’s Vinnytsia region.

The troops opened fire on Maksym Zaretskyi, 20, in the early hours of Saturday morning after he stopped their car for a routine inspection. Zaretskyi’s partner was wounded, but survived the attack.

In a statement on social media, Ukraine’s Ground Forces Command confirmed that the two men were military personnel. They described Zaretskyi’s death as an “irreparable loss” and said that those guilty of his killing should be “punished severely.”

“Ground Forces Command will provide all possible assistance in a comprehensive and impartial investigation,” it said.

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