Russia, Ukraine Down Drones As Voting Starts

Russia and Ukraine shot down drones and missiles overnight as polling stations opened across Russia on the first day of voting in the presidential elections.

Kyiv has conducted some of its most powerful air raids on Russia this week ahead of the referendum, which is expected to give President Vladimir Putin another six-year term in the Kremlin.

Russia’s defense ministry claimed Friday that it had shot down drones and rockets over the Belgorod border region and the Kaluga region, southwest of Moscow.

“Air defence equipment intercepted and destroyed five drones and two rockets over the territories of the Belgorod and Kaluga regions,” it claimed in a Telegram statement.

In a later statement, it said another seven Ukrainian-launched missiles were shot down over Belgorod around 8:15 a.m. (0515 GMT), shortly after voting began in the region.

According to the state-run news outlet RIA Novosti, voters left a polling location in Belgorod to seek refuge in a bomb bunker after authorities declared an air alert and urged everyone to take cover.

The governor of Russia’s Lipetsk region also announced Friday that two drones were downed in a location some 300 kilometers (180 miles) from Ukraine.

Ukraine’s air force reported that Russia fired 27 Iranian-style drones and eight missiles toward its territory overnight.

In a social media post, it stated that “27 out of 27 Shaheds were destroyed.”

Polling stations opened throughout Russia’s 11 time zones on Friday, as Putin urged voters to support his leadership despite a “difficult period” for the country.

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