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3 Killed, Nuclear-Capable Bombers Likely Damaged in Russian Airfield Explosions

Russian Air Force Tu-95MS at the Engels airbase in the Saratov region. Dmitriy Pichugin

Three people have been killed and at least two nuclear-capable bombers likely damaged in separate blasts at two Russian airfields, state and independent media outlets reported Monday.

Russia’s Defense Ministry has not yet commented on the alleged incidents, which took place hundreds of kilometers from the Ukrainian border.

Two Tu-95 long-range strategic nuclear bombers were damaged by a drone that fell on the runway at the Engels airfield in western Russia’s Saratov region, the Astra Telegram news channel reported, citing unnamed sources.

Two soldiers were said to have been hospitalized with various injuries.

Engels serves as a base for Tu-95 and Tu-160 nuclear-capable strategic bombers and is located 500 kilometers east of Ukraine’s border. 

Satellite images published last week showed around two dozen Tu-95s and Tu-160s parked at the Engels airfield, which media outlets said were part of Russia’s preparations for massive airstrikes on Ukraine.

Saratov region Governor Roman Busargin said law enforcement agencies were inspecting “information about incidents at military facilities.”

“No emergencies have occurred in the city's residential areas,” Busargin wrote in a social media post.

In a separate incident, a fuel tanker explosion caused three deaths and six injuries at an airfield in the Ryazan region southeast of Moscow, the state-run RIA Novosti news agency cited unnamed emergency officials as saying Monday. The cause was not immediately known.

Dyagilevo, the only air base in the Ryazan region, is also home to Tu-95 nuclear-capable bombers.

An unidentified aircraft was damaged in the fuel tanker explosion, according to RIA Novosti.

Footage published by Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, allegedly shows the moments of both incidents. 

“Some sources report that this morning planes based on Engels and Ryazan airfields were scheduled to bomb Ukrainian energy infrastructure yet again,” Gerashchenko wrote on the Telegram messaging app Monday.

Russian regional governors have repeatedly blamed Ukraine for cross-border attacks on their soil since the start of Moscow's invasion of its neighbor in February, but Kyiv has neither confirmed nor denied responsibility.

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