“Today our region was massively attacked by Ukrainian UAVs, our air defense shot down 10 UAVs,” Starovoyt said in a Telegram message. “Thank you to all our military and concerned citizens who reported the arrival of drones.”
There was no immediate official reaction from kyiv. An official with Ukraine’s SBU security service, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter, told the Washington Post on Friday that the substation was closed as a result of “a successful attack” near the border.
Russia has recently reported an increase in attempted drone attacks by Ukraine. Ukrainian officials have emphasized that targets inside Russia are part of the conflict.
On Thursday, a Ukrainian drone destroyed a Russian radar system in the same area, an SBU source told Ukrainian media Hromadske.
The system, called Kasta, is a mobile surveillance radar intended to detect and repel low-flying threats. It was located near the village of Giri, about 100 kilometers from the Kursk regional center and less than 20 kilometers from the border with Ukraine.
“The Russians have said that it can detect even stealth aircraft, but for some reason they did not detect the SBU drone,” an SBU source told Hromadske.
The increase in attacks – more airstrikes were reported in the Kursk region this week alone than in all of August – led local authorities to urge residents to report any drone sightings. Russia has recently launched a phone application that allows witnesses to report drones or other air strikes to security services. The program is similar to the ePPO application that has been operating in Ukraine for a year.
Russian regions in the west of the country have worked to reinforce their air defenses as Ukrainian forces become more brazen. Their attacks — including several drone strikes that hit the Kremlin and the skyscrapers of Moscow’s business district — have shaken even residents of Russia’s capital, hundreds of miles from Ukraine.
“If you find a drone, do not touch it or approach it, report it and wait for specialists,” Starovoyt said. “Even debris can be dangerous!”
Earlier this week, Ukrainian media reported that a group of Russian officers sent to examine a Ukrainian kamikaze drone intercepted in the Kursk area were “injured or killed” when a delayed-action explosive exploded. Although Russian military officials have not confirmed or commented on the incident, some prominent pro-invasion military bloggers in Russia reported on the event.
“One of the downed drones turned out to have a ‘surprise'” wrote blogger Boris Rozhin. “Previously, the enemy had already used similar tactics in the direction of Kherson, where several drones shot down and landed with the help of electronic warfare exploded after being detected.”
Friday’s UAV attack marked the third time the local power grid was reportedly attacked in the Kursk region. On Tuesday, a drone dropped an explosive on an electrical substation in the village of Snagost, leaving seven nearby settlements without power, and a mortar mine severed a power line in another small village of Popovo-Lezhachi, local authorities said.
Ukraine’s intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov said in mid-September that the country’s military objectives in launching drones in Russia are to deplete rival air defense systems, damage military aircraft and curb Russian weapons production.
A third of Russian military factories are located in the western part of Russia, which is increasingly within range of Ukrainian drones, Budanov told Ukrainian outlet NV, citing the recent attacks on the Kremni-El plant in Bryansk, one of the largest manufacturers of microelectronics that are reportedly used in the Iskander missile complexes and at the Redkino experimental plant in the Tver region, which produces rocket fuel.
As Ukraine continues its counteroffensive efforts, Moscow appears to be preparing for a long war, inflating the military budget for next year and reforming “volunteer battalions” from what remains of the infamous Wagner mercenary group, whose head Yevgeniy Prigozhin was killed in a shady plane crash a month ago, and two months after organizing a short-lived mutiny.
Russia will increase its military spending by about 68 percent next year, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, citing the draft budget compiled by the Finance Ministry.
“Obviously, that increase is necessary because we live in a state of hybrid warfare,” he said. “This requires a lot of spending.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin met Thursday night with one of Wagner’s top former commanders, Andrei Troshev, known by his nom de guerre Sedoi. The Kremlin said Troshev now works for the Defense Ministry, a possible culmination of efforts among the country’s top brass to bring Wagner under its control following a bitter public dispute between Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and the now-deceased Prigozhin.
Present alongside Putin was Deputy Defense Minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov. Yevkurov has recently been touring Africa and the Middle East, visiting capitals where Wagner had several security contracts in an apparent move to absorb his business beyond Russian borders.
Putin ordered Troshev to work on forming “volunteer units that can perform various combat tasks, especially, of course, in the zone of special military operation,” a Kremlin euphemism for the war in Ukraine.
Telegram channels close to the Wagner Group that had previously amplified Prigozhin’s expletive-laden insults against Shoigu on Friday questioned the Kremlin’s message that the group is now completely under military control, claiming that only a fraction of Wagner’s fighters switched on the side.
Kamila Hrabchuk contributed to this report.