Possible drone attacks against key energy infrastructure are a serious threat to Russia’s energy security, Energy Minister Nikolai Shulginov said on Tuesday.
Mr Shulginov did not mention Ukraine by name, but Russia says it has foiled a number of attempted Ukrainian drone attacks in recent months.
Ukraine has not publicly acknowledged launching attacks against targets inside Russia, but senior officials in Kyiv have on occasion appeared to welcome the news of successful drone attacks on Russian soil.
“The key threat now is acts of illegal interference through the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs),” Mr Shulginov said during a round-table discussion where he addressed the security of Russia’s energy facilities.
Why were Italian and Israeli secret service agents on a boat in northern Italy when they died in capsize?
EU determined to resist US efforts to use trade and technology council as joint platform to target Beijing
[ War heroes or paid criminals? Russia struggles to deal with slain mercenaries ]
He said he was co-operating with Russia's defence ministry and FSB security service on the issue.
Russia has previously reported drone attacks in several towns and cities, some of them hundreds of kilometres (miles) from its border with Ukraine.
On Sunday, Russia’s defence ministry said it had halted a UAV attack in a town 220km (140 miles) south of Moscow, bringing down the drone over residential houses in the town of Kireyevsk.
Russia accused Ukraine of mounting drone attacks on airbases deep inside Russian territory in December, including the main base for strategic bomber planes near the city of Saratov, after flying hundreds of kilometres through Russian airspace.
Russia itself has launched waves of missile and drone strikes against Ukraine’s energy infrastructure over the last six months of the conflict, often knocking out power for millions of civilians across Ukraine.
[ Ukraine counts heavy cost of Russian attacks on hydropower plants ]
Meanwhile, Ukraine is aiming to exhaust and inflict heavy losses on Russian forces trying to capture the small eastern city of Bakhmut, the commander of Ukrainian ground forces said in a video posted on Tuesday.
In a video showing him addressing soldiers in what appeared to be a large industrial warehouse, general Oleksandr Syrskyi said Russia was continuing to focus on the Bakhmut area after months of battle.
Moscow sees capturing Bakhmut as vital to its efforts to establish complete control over the Donbas industrial region in eastern Ukraine.
“They do not stop trying to surround and capture the city,” Mr Syrskyi said in the video posted on the Telegram messaging app.
“As of today, our main task is to wear down the overwhelming forces of the enemy and inflict heavy losses on them. It will create the necessary conditions to help liberate Ukrainian land and speed up our victory.”
Bakhmut had a pre-war population of about 70,000 people but the city has been virtually destroyed in about eight months of intense fighting, often at close quarters.
Mr Syrskyi has been meeting troops near the frontline as Ukraine prepares for a possible counter-offensive after 13 months of war. He said on Monday the defence of Bakhmut was a military necessity.
Mr Syrskyi said his visits to meet troops near the front line were needed for him and his commanders to agree on plans that would have “real results on the battlefield but not on the maps.”
His remarks again underlined Ukraine’s desire to hold on to Bakhmut rather than pull back to limit casualties.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has also visited troops in the east, south and southeast Ukraine this month. Mr Zelenskiy held a meeting with his top military command in the central city of Dnipro on Monday, the first such meeting held outside the capital since the start of the war.
Mr Zelenskiy said the situation at the frontline, reinforcements and protection of the borders – from Kherson in the south to Kharkiv in the east – was discussed at the meeting but gave no further details – Reuters