By: John Faerseth
September 7 2023
Ukraine has claimed responsibility for the attack. Estonian and Latvian authorities have denied responsibility.
Posts circulating on social media falsely claim that a recent drone attack in Pskov, Russia, was launched from either Latvia or Estonia.
On August 29, 2023, a Facebook user wrote, “Pskov International Airport is a civilian airport just south of St Petersburg. It has been attacked by a swarm of ~20 UAVs. There is a large fire that looks like a hit on a fuel depot or something similar. Pskov is located about 700km from the Ukrainian border, about 200km from the Belorussian border, about 60km from the Latvian border and about 30km from the Estonian border. Some sources are alleging that the drone swarm came from the west, meaning they were launched from Latvia or Estonia. NATO must be getting desperate.”
The same day, an X (formerly Twitter) user, a known pro-Russian spreader of narratives about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, wrote, “RUMOR: The drone swarm to Pskov was launched from Estonia, a NATO country. Should it be confirmed ... we have a bit problem. WW3ish kind of a problem.” Russian TV presenter Vladimir Solovyov also stated that "Turkish sources" had claimed that the strike came from Estonia, and that “If it's true then Estonia must be wiped off the face of the earth!"
However, the drone attack on Pskov airbase was not launched from Latvia or Estonia.
On the night of August 29, Ukrainian drones attacked several regions deep within Russia, with Pskov appearing to be the only region where the drones caused damage. According to the Russian Defence Ministry, four IL-76 military cargo aircraft were damaged, and drones were also shot down over the regions of Oryol, Bryansk, Ryazan, Kaluga, and Moscow.
On August 30, the strike was confirmed by Andriy Yusov, deputy head of Ukraine’s military intelligence, who said that all four IL-76 military cargo planes had been destroyed and several more planes were damaged. An official from the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence also confirmed to the BBC that Ukrainian military intelligence (GUR) was behind the attack.
Those spreading narratives about Estonian and Latvian involvement have not provided any reasons for such claims other than the long distance between Ukraine and Pskov. Pskov is located nearly 700 km from the Ukrainian border, and to travel this distance, drones must fly through Belarusian territory.
Ukraine has previously used modified Soviet Tu-141 drones to attack targets deep within Russia. They can travel 620 miles (997.793 kilometers), making Pskov within their range.
On August 31, Ukrainian Major General Kyrylo Budanov, head of the Defense Intelligence Directorate, told The War Zone, an online magazine based in the United States, that the drones were launched from inside Russia but did not specify whether the attack was carried out by GUR personnel or Russian partisans.
The Estonian government has firmly denied the claims. In a statement to Newsweek, a spokesman for the Government Office of the Republic of Estonia said, "This is false information." The Latvian Ministry of Defense has also categorically denied any involvement of Latvia in the drone attack on Pskov airport.
Pskov's airfield is used by both civilian and military aviation, including aircraft directly involved in the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. The last civilian flight before the 23:40 attacks left for Moscow at 21:23 on August 29.
Ukrainian government sources have claimed responsibility for the Pskov attack. Both the Estonian and Latvian governments have denied any involvement. Therefore, we have rated this claim as false.