“… on March 24 this year, at 4.23, there was a violation of Polish airspace by one of the cruise missiles launched this night by long-range aviation of the Russian Federation,” Poland’s Ministry of Defense says in a statement on Twitter (X).

The missile crossed the border near the town of Oserdów and stayed inside Polish airspace for 39 seconds. Polish and NATO allied aviation was activated to ensure the safety of Polish airspace, the statement from Warsaw says.

Ukrainian Air Force has throughout the night reported about incoming cruise missiles and drones and asked inhabitants to stay in shelters.

At 00.40 am a warning came that four Tu-95MS from the Olenya airbase in the Murmansk region were flying in southeast direction, a well-known direction for the bombers when preparing to launch cruise missile attacks on targets in Ukraine.

A few minutes later, the Air Force updated the information, saying 14 Tu-95MS were in the air. That included planes from Olenya on the Kola Peninsula and Engels in the Saratov region.

At 02.23 am local time, the first launches of cruise missiles from the bombers were recorded and the Ukrainian Air Force urged people to head for cover. Kyiv and Lviv in western Ukraine came under a massive attack. Explosions could be heard from both missile impacts and missiles shut down by Ukrainian air defense.

By 8 am Sunday, Air Force Commander Lt. Gen. Mykola Oleschuk summed up the attack in a message on Telegram, saying 18  cruise missiles and 25 drones were shut down in the regions of Dnipropetrovsk, Kherson, Mykolaiv, Odesa, Sumy, Kyiv, Volyn and Lviv regions.

The cruise missiles launched from the Tu-95MS strategic bombers were of the Kh-101/Kh-555 types.

Tonight’s targets were all far from the frontline on the ground in northeast Ukraine. Russia continues to attack civilian areas and civilian infrastructure. 

The wave of Russian attacks on Ukraine involving bombers from the Murmansk region is the second this weekend. During NATO’s exercise Nordic Response 2024 earlier in March, the Tu-95MS planes deployed to Olenya airbase were not active in strikes against Ukraine.

While Russian long-range aviation conducted strikes against civilians in Ukraine early Sunday morning, the rest of the country woke up to a national day of mourning after the terror attack on the concert hall on the outskirts of Moscow that left at least 140 killed. Putin, recently confirmed for a new 6-year period as Russia’s dictator, on Saturday claimed the gunmen were trying to escape to Ukraine.

Kyiv, however, said the accusations were “absurd”.  

The Barents Observer reported about attacks led by planes from Olenya Air Base on May 18 and December 29 last year and on January 2, January 9, February 6 and February 15 this year. 

There is yet no public information available saying if the cruise missile violating Polish airspace was launched from a Tu-95MS from the Olenya airbase, or if it came from an Engels-based aircraft. 

Located inside the Arctic Circle, the airbase is as far from Ukraine as possible in the European part of Russia.

Last spring the strategic air forces relocated more than 10 Tu-95M and Tu-160 long-range bombers to Olenya. The move came after Engels Air Base in Saratov region was hit by Ukrainian drones.

Olenya is 1,800 km north of Russia’s border with Ukraine, some 150 km east of the border with Norway and about 100 km from the border with NATO-member Finland. 

 

 





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