Ukraine Air Defense stretched thin as Russia escalates attacks
Ukraine is facing increased pressure from Russia through missile and drone attacks, according to a Ukrainian air force official. The attacks are straining Ukraine’s air defense resources. The official said that Russia’s air attacks have forced the use of corresponding air defense means, leaving Ukraine vulnerable to further attacks. With soldiers on both sides fighting from static positions, Russia has recently used intense and massive barrages of various types of missiles and drones to find gaps in Ukraine’s defenses, using up Ukraine’s weapons stockpiles in the process.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed the urgent need for air defence systems to protect civilian areas and troops, highlighting the country’s lack of air defense capabilities. President Zelenskyy pointed out that both the battlefield and cities are vulnerable due to insufficient air defense systems. The Russian Defence Minister, Sergei Shoigu, dismissed Ukraine’s efforts to bolster its firepower, stating that the conflict will continue unless Ukraine changes the situation on the line of contact. He emphasized Russia’s strategic initiative throughout the conflict.
Both sides have intensively escalated air attacks in recent weeks, with Russia reportedly launching a record 122 missiles and numerous drones on Dec. 29, resulting in the death of 62 civilians. Russia is said to have fired short-range missiles provided by North Korea at Ukrainian targets, but the Kremlin declined to comment on these assertions.
Ukrainian officials are seeking more weapons, including air defense and artillery shells, from the West. However, the U.S. is facing hurdles in Congress to send further aid to Ukraine amid the conflict with Russia. Europe’s promised delivery of one million artillery shells within 12 months has also fallen short, with only about 300,000 delivered so far. U.S.-made surface-to-air Patriot missiles would provide effective protection against Russian airstrikes, but analysts note their high cost.
The Institute for the Study of War emphasized the crucial need for continued Western provision of air defense systems and missiles to Ukraine. Meanwhile, Ukraine has increasingly targeted Moscow-occupied Crimea and Russian border regions with long-range strikes.
In the latest reported strike, two drones fell on the premises of a fuel and energy facility in the Russian city of Orlov, leading to injuries and a fire. According to the U.K. Defence Ministry, Ukrainian strikes on military targets in Crimea demonstrate the apparent ineffectiveness of Russian air defenses in protecting key locations.