With air strikes on three Russian military airports, Ukraine has apparently demonstrated a clout that was unimaginable until recently. Two Russian military bases hundreds of kilometers inland were attacked on Monday morning. On Tuesday morning there was talk of another attack on an airfield near Kursk.

A senior Ukrainian source confirmed to The New York Times on Tuesday that drones were launched from Ukrainian territory. At least one of the attacks was carried out with the help of Ukrainian special forces near the base, who helped the drone locate its target. Russia spoke of three killed and four injured soldiers and two damaged aircraft.

The political scientist Gerhard Mangott is shocked by the poor defense of the Russians: “Since the border crossing of the apparently Ukrainian drone into Russian airspace, the air defense has failed catastrophically. A foreign missile entering Russian airspace must be detected and neutralized earlier.”

Gerhard Mangott is a professor of political science with a special focus on international relations and security in the post-Soviet space. He teaches at the Institute for Political Science in Innsbruck and is a lecturer at the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna

In an interview with FOCUS online, Mangott continues: “Long-range bombers are stationed at the base in Saratov, which are used in a nuclear war. I was very surprised that an airport was so vulnerable.” It is the first time that Ukraine has attacked targets hundreds of kilometers inland. Russian long-range bombers are stationed at the airfields near Saratov and Ryazan, which fly attacks against the Ukrainian energy infrastructure.

According to Russian information, a Soviet-designed drone was used in the attack – there is also speculation online about a new Ukrainian super drone that the state-owned armaments company Ukroboronprom intends to develop by the end of the year. For Mangott, the attack showed that “the Russian air defenses were unable to repel this attack”.

Long-range bombers parked outside were clearly visible on satellite images just before the attack. A sign that Russia has felt safe far inland.

The alleged help from Ukrainian special forces on Russian soil does not surprise the security expert either. “Ukraine has operational forces capable of operating on Russian territory despite counterintelligence. Not just at the border, but deep into the heart of Russia,” says Mangott.

The politics professor brushes aside speculation on the internet that Ukraine attacked specifically at the shift change in the morning: “There is actually always a flying change between the two shifts. The defenses were simply not fully operational during the attacks.”

Nevertheless, it remains a great mystery as to why the drones went undetected during their hundreds of kilometers of flight in Russian airspace. “I would be very surprised if a stolen Russian tracking device on a Ukrainian drone was able to knock out Russian air defenses. That doesn’t sound likely to me,” Mangott continues to analyse. With the Beriev A-50 early warning aircraft, Russia can actually also detect threats that are not detected by ground radar.

Kremlin boss Vladimir Putin already seems to have learned the first lessons from the failure of the air defense system. On Tuesday afternoon he convened the Security Council for a meeting.

Gerhard Mangott warns of “a further escalation of the war on the Russian side” should the Ukrainian attacks intensify. “The Russian Defense Ministry has announced an ‘appropriate response’ to the attacks. It is likely that Russia will not stop at attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.”