Russia’s use of long-range aviation from distant airfields “will add additional maintenance stress and will further deplete the limited flying hours available on these aging aircraft,” the U.K. Defense Ministry reported in its latest intelligence update on Jan. 5.
Russia has redeployed its bombers to the country’s far east after recent drone attacks on the Engels air base in Russia's Saratov Oblast, according to Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council.
Despite the move, Russia’s long-range aviation “will still be able to fire air-launched cruise missiles into Ukraine because the weapons have a 5,000 kilometer range, in addition to the flight range of the bombers,” the ministry said.
Russia has used the Engels air base, which is located around 730 kilometers southeast of Moscow and hundreds of kilometers from Ukraine, to attack Ukraine with bombers carrying cruise missiles.
On Dec. 26, a Ukrainian drone attacked the Engels air base, killing three soldiers, according to the Russian Ministry of Defence.
Ukraine has not explicitly admitted having organized the attack.
Ukraine’s Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ihnat called it “the consequences of Russian aggression” against Ukraine.
Russian officials have also blamed Ukraine for the explosions at the Engels Air Base and the Dyagilyaevo airfield near Ryazan on Dec. 5, which killed three people and damaged two Tu-95 heavy bombers. Ukraine neither confirmed nor denied its responsibility for the incidents.
The U.K. Defense Ministry said on Dec. 6 that the explosions at the air bases might be some of Russia's most strategically significant failures.