Ukraine strikes highlight dwindling Russian missile stockpiles

Russia unleashed a barrage of missile strikes on Ukraine in retaliation for Saturday’s explosion that damaged the bridge to Crimea. Several military experts believe that this operation is counter-productive as Moscow struggles to replenish its arms stocks.

Russia on Tuesday claimed responsibility for a new round of strikes targeting Ukraine’s strategic infrastructure. The day before, 19 people had been killed across Ukraine in the most intense campaign of missile strikes Moscow had carried out in several months.

This show of force, which followed the explosion on Saturday on the bridge over the Kerch Strait linking Russia to Crimea, comes at a difficult time for the Russian army, which is struggling to stem the Ukrainian advance on the fronts. east and south. Far from embodying a new strategy, the military escalation reflects the concern of the Russian regime, according to several experts contacted by FRANCE 24.

“A significant military investment”

The missiles, rockets and drones that Russia launched this week hit civilian energy infrastructure as well as central areas in more than 20 towns and villages, according to Ukrainian authorities.

“This is the first time that Russia has launched strikes of this magnitude,” said Jeff Hawn, an expert on Russian military issues and an external consultant for the New Lines Institute, a US geopolitical research center. “He wanted to prove that he was still capable of launching large-scale punitive attacks across Ukraine and hitting critical infrastructure. But these operations pose two major problems for Moscow: they rarely destroy their targets and can only be launched episodically because they represent a major military investment.

According to the Ukrainian army, Russia alone launched 75 missiles on the country on Monday, 41 of which were shot down by air defense. Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov on Tuesday welcomed the arrival of Germany’s Iris-T missile launcher, which he said marked the beginning of a “new era” for Ukrainian air defense. The following day, G7 leaders pledged additional military aid to Kyiv, including new and improved air defense systems, during their videoconference meeting.

Despite massive Western military aid to Ukraine in recent months, Russia still has a large military advantage over its neighbor as it commands what is considered the world’s second strongest army. In the long run, however, that dynamic could change, Hawn said. “The Ukrainian army is growing in strength while Russia sees its military capabilities inexorably decline as it is unable to maintain its stocks.”

Supply issues

At the end of April, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar claimed that Russia had already launched 1,300 missiles at Ukraine since the start of the invasion on February 24, estimating that Moscow had by then exhausted nearly the half of its available stock.

“It is estimated that Russian industry has a production capacity of 100 to 200 new missiles per year,” said General Christian Quesnot, former chief of staff of the French presidency. “The problem today is renewal. It’s difficult because the Russians have steel plates and explosives but lack electronic guidance systems.

Economic sanctions imposed on Russia since the invasion have weighed heavily on its arms industry, which is struggling to source electronic components. In this context, Moscow was forced to drastically reduce or even stop its arms deliveries abroad and to turn to new suppliers, such as Iran and North Korea.

lone soldiers

In addition to the impact of sanctions, Russia’s military industry is paying the price for decades of mismanagement, Hawn said. “Moscow has huge amounts of military equipment, but some of it is unusable due to the incompetence of the people supposed to maintain it and institutional corruption in this sector. Selling military parts and equipment on the black market is a widespread practice in Russia, so much so that even before the war, some conscripts found themselves forced to purchase their own equipment.

In recent months, faced with an increasingly difficult military environment, Russian soldiers who feel abandoned by their superiors have expressed their anger on social networks.

“The Russians need ammunition to be able to support their troops, who are on the front line and complain bitterly that they have no fire support,” said General Michel Yakovleff, former deputy chief of staff of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (NATO). “While its soldiers are fighting on the ground, Russia is firing fireworks. This operation makes no military sense.

Although the Russian strikes earlier this week caused major power cuts across Ukraine, they did not prevent Kyiv forces from continuing their counteroffensive. Ukraine’s presidency announced on Wednesday that it had taken over five settlements in the southern Kherson region, which Moscow said it annexed in late September.

This article is a translation of the original in French.

© Graphic studio France Media World

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