Tatarstan Strike: A Breakdown

What to Know:

On April 2, Ukraine carried out drone attacks against industrial zones in Nizhnekamsk and Yelabuga, Tatarstan, some 1,200km away from the front, marking the deepest strikes against Russian infrastructure since the start of the invasion.

One of the drone targeted the TANECO oil refinery in Nizhnekamsk, while another struck a hostel in Yelabuga, resulting in injuries, while reportedly attempting to hit a nearby drone production facility.

While the attacks are already notable due to their distance away from the frontlines, they were also carried out using drones made from converted utility aircraft, a tactic previously seen before in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Attack:

The first strike was carried out against the Alabuga “special economic zone” in Yelabuga, a manufacturing hub meant to attract foreign investments to the region through reduced tax rates, using a Ukrainian-made Aeroprakt A-22 Foxbat light utility aircraft that had been converted into a drone and packed with explosives.

Footage and pictures taken at the scene shows that the drone struck a dormitory of the Alabuga hostel, located directly across from the Alabuga Politech STEM college. Russian media reported that the strike wounded at least seven people, including students from the college, however, none of the injuries were described as life threatening.

Ukrainian sources have reported that the intended target of the strike was a known Shahed-136 explosive drone production facility located next to Alabuga Politech. Albatross LLC, a Russian military drone producer, also appears to have recruited students from Alabuga Politech to work at the facility through job postings shared amongst Russian milbloggers.

The second strike targeted the key TANECO oil refinery in nearby Nizhnekamsk, however, Tatarstan head Rustam Minnikhanov stated in a post to his Telegram channel that “there is no serious damage, the technological process of the enterprises was not disrupted.” Russian milblogger War Gonzo reported that the strike caused a fire at the facility, which is consistent with photos of the aftermath.

It is unclear if a weaponized A-22 was also used to strike the refinery.

The Tactic:

The idea of turning utility aircraft into drones has been done before in recent conflicts.

During the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan converted old Soviet An-2 biplanes into drones to fly them over Armenian frontlines to draw anti-aircraft fire or be used as loitering munitions to strike targets. 

Before the invasion kicked off, Russia transferred a large number of An-2s to Crimea, in which I thought they would turn them into drones, but we haven’t seen any evidence of this yet.

Ukraine’s utilization of utility aircraft for kinetic drone strikes raises continued questions about Russia’s air defense capabilities away from the front, which has already struggled with intercepting Ukrainian drone attacks against key energy infrastructure inside its own territory.

The use of an aircraft like the A-22 could provide benefits for evading detection with a low flying altitude and slow air speed, as well as appearing inconspicuous as a civilian aircraft in a time were both sides are hyper-aware of current drone capabilities. Likewise, aircraft such as this can carry more fuel, allowing for longer flight times and strikes deeper into Russian territory.


Unbiased & Unfiltered News Reporting for 12+ years. Covering Geo-Political conflicts, wartime events, and vital Breaking News from around the world. Editor-In-Chief of Atlas News.


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