Explosions rocked the area around one of Russia’s largest military hubs before dawn Thursday, as Russian officials said air defenses shot down two drones in the southern region of Rostov, home to a command center for Moscow’s armed forces in Ukraine.
The source of the drones was not immediately clear. The Ukrainian military had no immediate comment, in line with standard practice on explosions in Russia, although Ukrainian officials have said in recent weeks that such attacks are a legitimate way to fight Russia’s invasion.
The southern city of Rostov-on-Don, where at least one of the explosions took place, is home to Russia’s southern military headquarters and is a key command center for its forces in the war. Russian news media posted a series of videos showing an explosion in the city center, but it was not clear what caused the explosion. The Russian Defense Ministry said drone attacks in other regions were thwarted.
Rostov regional governor Vasily Golubev said Russian air defenses shot down two drones overnight and falling debris damaged cars and buildings, injuring one person. One drone fell in the city center, he said in a post on the messaging app Telegram, which listed an address across the street from the military headquarters. Another was shot outside the town in the western part of the region, he added.
Rostov-on-Don was briefly occupied by Russian mercenaries when Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner Group, launched a brief armed uprising against the top brass of the Russian military in June. Mr. Prigozhin died in a plane crash at the end of August.
While not always claiming responsibility, Ukraine has stepped up attacks in Russia in recent weeks, deploying a variety of weapons to attack military targets across the country. President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has described the strikes as a “fair and just” attempt to transfer the war to Russia.
Last week, a wave of exploding drones targeted six Russian regions, including an airfield near the border with Estonia, a NATO member, where military cargo planes were damaged. In recent days, airports around Moscow have had to temporarily suspend flights almost every morning due to drone activity.
The developments, analysts say, are a sign that while Kiev has begged Western allies to supply long-range weapons, its own weapons manufacturers have built up a homegrown arsenal capable of hitting Russian territory at long range by land, air and by sea.
Frederick B. Hodges, a retired lieutenant general and former top commander of the U.S. military in Europe, said the attacks in Russia are having a cumulative effect, potentially hurting the economy and increasing tensions in a Russian military command already in turmoil by the consequences of Mr. Prigozhin’s military operations. short-lived mutiny and setbacks in the war in Ukraine.
“You can be sure that people will be chewed out,” he said in an interview before the Rostov blasts. “There will be a lot of unrest in the chain of command.”
He added that Russia’s air defense systems, which are largely designed to counter NATO air power, have the ability to limit the impact of the attacks. But he said Kremlin war planners may have to reposition aircraft and redeploy military assets to counter the growing Ukrainian threat.
“They have to come from somewhere, so there will be a loss of protection somewhere,” he said.
Attacks on Russian territory have not caused nearly as much damage as Moscow’s deadly attacks on Ukrainian cities. Russia attacked Izmail, a port city on the Danube, with drones for the fourth time in five days, Oleg Kiper, the head of the region’s military administration, said early Thursday. The local prosecutor’s office said two people were injured.
Erin Mendell, Constant Méheut And Valeria Safronova reporting contributed.