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Kremlin says Russia, NATO relations have slipped to the level of ‘direct confrontation’ over the war in Ukraine.

Russia has downed 53 Ukrainian drones, the majority of which targeted the southern Rostov region, the Ministry of Defence said, as the Kremlin warned that Russia and NATO are now in “direct confrontation” over Ukraine.

The ministry said that “terrorist attacks with aerial drones” overnight and on Friday morning were foiled, adding that 44 of them were downed or intercepted in Rostov, where Russia’s Ukraine campaign headquarters is located.

Vasily Golubev, the governor of Rostov, confirmed early on Friday that air defence units had destroyed more than 40 airborne targets, though an electricity substation was damaged.

Writing on the Telegram messaging app, he said the drone attacks had focused on the Morozovsk district, northeast of Rostov, which lies on Ukraine’s eastern border. Golubev said work was under way to restore power supplies in the affected areas.

Russian state news agency RIA reported that one drone was downed in the Saratov region, where an airbase for Russian strategic bombers is located.

Other drones were downed over the Kursk, Belgorod and Krasnodar regions, RIA reported, citing the Defence Ministry. There were no reports of casualties.

Ukraine has for months launched drone attacks on several border regions as it tries to push back Russia’s advancing forces.

‘Direct confrontation’

Russia also deployed several unmanned aerial vehicles targeting Ukrainian cities and towns overnight.

In a message on Telegram early on Friday, Oleksandr Prokudin, the governor of Ukraine’s Kherson, said at least 10 people were “poisoned” by fumes after a gas pipeline was damaged by Russian shelling. The extent of the damage was not immediately clear.

Several residential buildings were affected, but there were no immediate reports of casualties, he said.

Ukraine’s military said on Telegram that it repelled “several waves of attack drones” flying over the southern regions of Zaporizhia, Odesa and Dnipropetrovsk.

The military said the Shahed-type drones entered its territory from occupied Crimea, damaging private homes and some commercial buildings.

As the warring nations continue to exchange fire, United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken said more aid is urgently needed for Ukraine.

Speaking to reporters at the sideline of NATO’s 75th anniversary celebrations in Brussels on Thursday, Blinken said support for Ukraine is especially important as countries such as China, North Korea and Iran are helping Russia build its defence industrial base.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says “allies understand the urgency” of the situation in Ukraine and the need for new additional air defences.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned that relations between Russia and NATO “have now slipped to the level of direct confrontation”.

NATO was “already involved in the conflict surrounding Ukraine [and] continues to move towards our borders and expand its military infrastructure towards our borders”, he said.

The military alliance has expanded with the entry of Finland last year and Sweden in March ending decades of neutrality amid soaring concerns about Russia’s aggression in Europe following its invasion of Ukraine.



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