Slowing its offensive, Russia uses long-range missiles to devastating effect.
Even as Russian ground progress on key targets, including Kyiv and Odessa, has stalled, it has used long-range rockets to devastating effect against Ukrainian forces and infrastructure in recent days.
As the war progresses, the attacks are a reminder of how Russia’s vastly superior weapons give it a distinct advantage, even using a lightning strike to take out the Ukrainian government. Meaning turns into a fierce battle.
In the first week of the war, it is not clear how many Russian strikes hit their targets, but Piotr Lukasivi, an analyst at Politika Insight, a Warsaw-based research institute, said they caused serious damage to Ukraine’s command and control centers.
“They initially disabled an important headquarters and communications center with precision strikes,” he said.
Just as the Russians are plagued by logistical and re-supply issues, Ukrainians are struggling to replace stable systems that the Russians have destroyed or disabled.
“Gradually Ukrainians are losing their radar or warning systems,” said Mr Lukasiewicz.
The Russians have also shown that their weapons can hit with accuracy. a strike A barracks housing 200 sailors at Mykolaiv on Friday, Dozens were killed, one of the deadliest of the war. According to Mayor Oleksandr Senkevich, it also came with little warning, with no air alarm sounding. The strike raised questions about Ukrainian strategy and why they might have concentrated so many troops in one place on the front lines.
Mr Lukasiewicz said Ukraine, like Poland, still maintains many of its troops and command and control in the same places where they were part of the Soviet Union. Russia has got another advantage from this.
“For them to get the exact locations of barracks, headquarters and military units would simply involve going through the archives,” he said.
Expanding targets to the west, he said, had a very clear strategy: fighting off troops in front of you while trying to cut off your supply lines and communication systems.
In recent days, Russian cruise missiles fired from the Black Sea have struck a vast training base just 12 miles from the Polish border and, separately, Lviv airport used to repair MiG fighter jets. A nearby location – what remains is a major of the Ukrainian Air Force. In both instances, the Russians fired barrages, not a single missile.
The Ukrainian claimed to have killed more than a dozen, but a number got through. The same is true of recent missile attacks on air bases in other parts of western and central Ukraine.
At the same time, Russia claimed on Saturday that it had used a hypersonic missile to hit an underground warehouse for missiles and aviation ammunition in a village in western Ukraine. If confirmed, it would be the first battlefield use of a weapon that flies at superfast speeds and can easily evade US missile defense systems.
The Ukrainian said the type of missile was yet to be determined and that video of the attack released by the Russian Defense Ministry did not clearly demonstrate that it was in fact a hypersonic missile.
Also on Saturday, an adviser to the Minister of Internal Affairs, Anton Gerashenko, claimed that Russia was using “projectiles landing on parachute” for the first time in Kyiv. Those bombs, unlike laser targeted long-range missiles, are designed to inflict maximum damage.
Benjamin Hodges, a former US military commander in Europe, said the recent attacks underscore that Russia’s targeting of civilians is part of its strategy.
“These attacks confirm that they have the exact same capabilities as we believed,” he said in an email message. “Which also confirms that cities are not using indiscriminate attacks because they do not have precision weapons. It was intentional, as we assumed.”
According to the Pentagon, in just three weeks, Russia has launched more than 1,000 missiles and rockets at Ukrainian targets. The vast majority, according to British officials, have been “stupid bombs” targeting civilians.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby recently warned that as Russian ground forces found their advances hampered by fierce Ukrainian resistance, they would rely more on long-range cruise missiles and other rockets.
After it hit a training base north of Lviv near the Polish border, he said, Russia was doing more than just “sending a message”.
“They are clearly expanding some of their target set here,” Kirby said.
While experts are puzzled by Russia’s failure to gain complete control of Ukraine’s skies, they are certainly major ones – Russian surface-to-air missile capabilities could reach anywhere in Ukraine, according to military analysts. Russia is believed to fly around 200 flights per day while Ukraine does five to 10.
The vulnerability of Ukraine’s military infrastructure is why President Volodymyr Zelensky has been asking NATO for weeks to “close the skies” with no-fly zones – a move that the coalition will not take. Mr Zelensky recently acknowledged that such a move was unlikely, but he intensified his call for air defense systems to help blunt the effects of Russian aerial bombing.
Slovakia has agreed to provide its S-300 air defense system – which can shoot down cruise missiles – and MiG-29s to Ukraine “immediately” if it can. timely replacement, Slovakian Defense Minister, Jaroslav Nad, told reporters at a joint news conference with On March 17, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III. Mr Austin said there was no agreement to announce, but the discussion was a sign of the urgent work being done to help Ukraine defend itself.
The heavy use of missiles by Russia in the war also suggests some weaknesses that favor the Ukrainians.
These missiles, fired from hundreds of miles away, have no ability to hit mobile defense systems, according to a panel of military peers at the Atlantic Council, a nonpartisan research group. This means that “Russia has almost no ability to stop mobile re-supply,” the panel said.
Furthermore, it is unclear how long Russia can sustain a barrage of multiple cruise missiles aimed at the same target.
Dr Siddhartha Kaushal, research fellow in maritime power and missile defense at the Royal United Services Institute, said Russia’s supply of cruise missiles could be limited. A report, he wrote recently, suggested that around 120 were produced in 2018.
“I expect the cruise missile arsenal to be large but not unlimited,” he said in a statement. “They have to be careful about what they hit.”
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