Ukrainian Beaver kamikaze drone strikes blew up Russian aircraft factory 240km behind enemy lines

Attack appears to have been part of a wave of 35 drones Ukraine launched in retaliation to a Russian strike over the weekend.

A Ukrainian drone has struck a Russian aircraft factory more than 240km behind enemy lines.

Ukraine’s military intelligence agency (HUR) claimed responsibility for the explosion at the Smolensk Aviation Factory. Footage of the blast showed plumes of black smoke billowing up from the plant, which also produces Kh-59 cruise missiles.

Baza, a Russian Telegram channel with links to the military, said two drones were downed over the factory, one of which crashed into the roof and exploded. It said there were no casualties. This is the second time Ukraine has sent drones to attack the factory – a previous raid in October caused widespread damage to production lines.

The attack appears to have been part of a wave of 35 drones Ukraine launched over the weekend in retaliation to a dawn attack by 70 Russian Shahed drones on Saturday.

It comes at a critical time in the war, with front lines frozen and major question marks about military support and funding for Ukraine from the West.

On Tuesday NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said he was “confident” the United States would keep up weapons deliveries, despite a political blockage in Washington. The US has provided over $40 billion in security aid to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion and pledged to back Kyiv for as long as necessary. But opposition from hardline Republicans has thrown into question the future of this assistance.

“I’m confident that the United States will continue to provide support because it is in the security interest of the United States to do so and it’s also in line with what we have agreed,” Stoltenberg said at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels.

The European Union is currently also struggling to agree a plan for its own long-term support for arming Ukraine in the face of opposition from Hungary.

“I urge allies and allies are also committed to continue to deliver support,” Stoltenberg said, pointing to €10 billion (£8.6 billion) pledged recently by Germany and the Netherlands.

“Even though the frontline has not moved so much, the Ukrainians have been able to inflict heavy losses on the Russian forces.”

Latvian foreign minister Krisjanis Karins said Ukraine needs more “long-range missiles so that they can impede Russia’s logistic capabilities”.

“It’s in our direct interest to continue supporting Ukraine to make sure that Russia does not win this war that Ukraine can win the war,” he said.

Ukraine’s top diplomat Dmytro Kuleba will join the meeting on Wednesday and NATO members are set to agree on a plan for reforms aimed at helping Ukraine towards eventual membership in the alliance.

Ukraine is pushing to join NATO, but the US-led alliance has so far refused to issue a formal invitation despite promising that Kyiv will be in its ranks one day.

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