Wave of Ukrainian Drones Target Russia Amid Elections

Sun Mar 17 2024
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MOSCOW: Russia faced a barrage of Ukrainian drone attacks overnight Sunday, heightening tensions on the final day of elections aimed at extending President Vladimir Putin’s rule.

The three-day vote has been marred by fatal Ukrainian bombardment, sabotage incursions into Russian territory, and vandalism at polling stations.

Air defences in multiple Russian regions intercepted 35 unmanned aerial vehicles, causing a fire at an oil refinery. “Kamikaze drones” ignited a fire at a polling station in the Russian-controlled part of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region, though no casualties were reported.

Amid the elections, acts of protest erupted, including arrests of individuals accused of tampering with ballots or committing arson. Opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who passed away recently, had urged Russians to protest, a call reiterated by his widow, Yulia Navalnaya.

Despite harsh repercussions for dissent, Russia’s opposition has urged people to vote at noon as a legal demonstration against Putin. A Moscow resident expressed intent to vote in protest, hoping to demonstrate opposition to the conflict and the regime.

Putin portrayed the election as an opportunity for Russians to support the assault on Ukraine, while denouncing the elections, Ukraine urged Western allies not to recognize the result.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and over 50 member states criticized Russia for holding the vote in parts of Ukraine, denouncing it as illegitimate and a violation of international law.

Russian state media emphasized recent gains on the front and framed the conflict as a fight against Western aggression. In Ukraine, a Russian missile strike on Odesa killed 21 people, prompting condemnation from President Zelensky.

On the Russian side, attempts by Ukrainian sabotage groups to cross into Russia have been reported, leading to heightened security measures in some regions.

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