Its attack slowed, Russia used long-range missiles to devastating effect.
Even as Russia’s ground offensive against key targets including Kyiv and Odessa has stalled, it has used long-range missiles in recent days to wreak havoc on its military and infrastructure. of Ukraine.
As the war continues, the attacks are a reminder of how Russia’s state-of-the-art weaponry gives the country a distinct advantage, even if what is seen as a flash to bring down the country. Ukraine’s government has turned into a brutal war of attrition.
In the first week of the war, it’s unclear how many Russian strikes hit their targets, but Piotr Lukasiewicz, an analyst at Polityka Insight, a Warsaw-based think tank, says they did cause serious damage to Ukrainian command and control centers.
“They disabled a key headquarters and communication center from the start with precision attacks,” he said.
Just as the Russians were plagued by logistical and supply problems, the Ukrainians were struggling to replace the stationary systems that the Russians destroyed or disabled.
“Gradually, Ukrainians are losing their radars or warning systems,” said Lukasiewicz.
The Russians have also proven that their weapons can shoot accurately. A strike on a barracks in Mykolaiv on Friday, home to 200 marines, killed dozens of people, was one of the deadliest of war. According to mayor Oleksandr Senkevich, it also doesn’t have much warning. The attack raised questions about Ukraine’s tactics and why it concentrated so many troops in one position on the front lines.
Mr. Lukasiewicz said that Ukraine, like Poland, still has many troops and command and control in the same places where they were stationed when they were part of the Soviet Union. This gave the Russians another advantage.
“For them to get the exact location of barracks, headquarters and military units just need to look through the archives,” he said.
Expanding targets westward is a pretty obvious strategy, he said: fight the troops ahead of you while trying to cut off their supply lines and communication systems.
In recent days, Russian cruise missiles fired from the Black Sea have hit a large training base just 12 miles from the Polish border and in particular a site near Lviv airport that was used for repair work. repair MiG fighters – a fundamental part of what remains of the Ukrainian Air Force. In both cases, the Russians did not fire a single missile, but used barges.
The Ukrainians claimed to have shot down more than a dozen of them, but some made it through. The same is true for recent missile attacks on airports in other parts of western and central Ukraine.
At the same time, on Saturday, Russia announced that it had used a hypersonic missile to fire at an underground warehouse of missiles and aviation ammunition in a village in western Ukraine. If confirmed, it will be the first use of this weapon on the battlefield with its super-fast speed and can easily evade US missile defense systems.
The Ukrainians say that the missile’s type has yet to be identified and that a video of the attack released by the Russian Defense Ministry does not clearly prove that it is indeed a hypersonic missile.
Also on Saturday, an adviser to the Minister of the Interior, Anton Gerashchenko, claimed that Russia, for the first time in Kyiv, used “parachute-fired bullets”. Those bombs, unlike laser-targeted long-range missiles, are designed to deal maximum damage.
Benjamin Hodges, a former commander of US troops in Europe, said that the recent attacks underscore how Russia’s targeting of civilians is part of its strategy.
“These strikes confirm that they are likely to be accurate, as we assumed,” he said in an email. “It also confirms that their use of indiscriminate attacks in cities is not because they do not have the correct ammunition. It was intentional, just as we had assumed. ”
In just over three weeks, Russia launched more than 1,000 missiles and rockets at Ukrainian targets, according to the Pentagon. The vast majority were “deadly bombs” aimed at civilians, according to British officials.
John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, warned recently that when Russia’s ground forces find their advances thwarted by fierce Ukrainian resistance, they will rely more heavily on cruise missiles. long-range program and other missiles.
After the attack on a training base north of Lviv near the Polish border, he said, Russia did more than “send a message”.
“They’re clearly expanding some of their goals here,” Mr. Kirby said.
According to military analysts, while experts are baffled by Russia’s failure to gain full control of the skies over Ukraine, they are certainly dominating – Russia’s surface-to-air missile capabilities have could reach anywhere in Ukraine, according to military analysts. Russia is said to fly about 200 sorties a day while Ukraine flies between 5 and 10 sorties.
The vulnerability of Ukraine’s military infrastructure is why President Volodymyr Zelensky has for weeks been asking NATO to “close the skies” to a no-fly zone – a step the alliance will not take. . Zelensky recently acknowledged that such a move was unlikely, but he has stepped up his call for air defenses to help mitigate the impact of the Russian air strike.
Slovakia has agreed to supply Ukraine with S-300 air defense systems – which can shoot down cruise missiles – and MiG-29s “immediately” if they can. Slovakia’s Defense Minister, Jaroslav Nad, told reporters during a joint press conference with Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III on March 17. Mr. Austin said there was no agreement to announce but the discussions were an indication that urgent work was being done to help Ukraine defend itself. .
Russia’s heavy use of missiles in the war also shows some weaknesses in favor of the Ukrainians.
According to a military research group at Atlantic Council, a nonpartisan research group. That means “Russia has virtually no capacity to stop mobile resupply,” the council said.
Moreover, it is not clear how long Russia can sustain a series of cruise missiles aimed at a single target.
Dr Sidharth Kaushal, a researcher in sea 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 would expect the cruise missile arsenal to be large but not limitless,” he said in a statement. “They’ll have to be careful about what they hit.”