Ukraine's Monday air strikes against two military airfields in Russia could have the same significance as the sinking of Russian missile cruiser Moscow in spring, security expert Rainer Saks said.
"It constitutes momentous change in this war. /.../ A comparable blow to losing the missile cruiser Moscow in the Black Sea," Saks told Vikerraadio on Tuesday.
Media reports suggest the Engels Airfield in Saratov Oblast was hit by drone strikes on Monday. Two Tu-95 strategic bombers were damaged. Explosions killing three also rocked the Ryazan Airfield.
Saks said it remains unclear why Russian anti-aircraft defenses failed to bring down the attack drones.
"The question now is whether Ukraine has more such offensive tools. They haven't revealed exactly what they used to stage these attacks. And secondly, whether Russian air defense really is helpless, or whether this was one-off sloppiness or excess confidence /.../," Saks said, adding that he does not have the answer.
The expert said that the strategic bombers hit on Monday are of crucial importance for Russia both for air strikes against Ukraine and nuclear deterrence and cannot be based at any random airfield.
It should be kept in mind that Russia does not currently have the capacity to build more such aircraft, Saks suggested. "They are using what they've got, and they need to keep them flying somehow. Those reserves dwindling would also hamper Russia's strategic deterrence capacity."
Ukrainian air defenses give pause in Moscow
The national defense expert also suggested that Ukraine's improving air defense capabilities are causing Moscow to mull whether to continue missile attacks in recent fashion.
"Ukraine's air defense capacity has improved. The fact that 85 percent [of Russian missiles] were shot down on Monday – I believe it is close to the point where Russia has to consider whether it can sustain these attacks. "The effectiveness of air strikes where only a few missiles out of 90 hit their targets is questionable to say the least," he remarked.
Editor: Mait Ots, Marcus Turovski