EDF intelligence chief: Russia has started using spy balloons

Colonel Margo Grosberg
Colonel Margo Grosberg Source: ERR

The Russian armed forces have begun using meteorological balloons in their war of aggression, to obtain information on Ukrainian air defense positions, according to chief of the Estonian Defense Forces' (EDF) intelligence center, Colonel Margo Grosberg.

"This week, for the first time, a strange phenomenon occurred, when meteorological balloons were observed over Kyiv. I don't know whether the Russian Federation got this idea from the [recent alleged]  Chinese [spy]  balloons [in the U.S.] or from somewhere else, but in any case, we can see that this new tactic has now been introduced," Colonel Grosberg said at an Estonian Ministry of Defense briefing on Friday.

According to Grosberg, the main purpose of sending the meteorological balloons into Ukraine is to exhaust Ukrainian air defenses, who have to track and destroy them, as it is not known what they may be carrying.   

"This both wastes anti-aircraft weapons and exhausts the crews. It also makes the anti-aircraft crews visible as a result of their actions, because you can then see where the missiles are coming from," Grosberg explained.

The colonel also pointed out, that the cost of meteorological balloons is far lower than that of a spent anti-aircraft missile. "So, it's a very cheap and clever trick," he said.

"It remains to be seen how long [it will go on for] and how the Ukrainians will respond to this maneuver," said the defense intelligence chief.

Grosberg explained that, it seems fairly certain the objects were ordinary meteorological balloons, and were not carrying any military or intelligence cargo. "The ones, which have been shot down were carrying reflectors to make sure they would be detected by air defense radars. That is part of the tactic to exhaust the Ukrainian air defenses," he said.

Russia can still produce missiles

Grosberg also pointed out that the airstrike, which hit the city of Lviv in the west of Ukraine this January used a cruise missile, which had been manufactured this year.

"Inspection of the remains of the Kh-101 missile has led to the conclusion that it was produced this year. This shows that Russia continues to have the capability to produce these kinds of missiles. At the moment, we do not know and are not able to assess, whether it is (using) pre-war stockpiles that allows them to produce these kinds of missiles to be produced or whether there are other factors behind it," he said.

The Kh-101 is an air-launched cruise missile with a 3,000 kilometer range, and is capable of carrying warheads weighing up to 450 kilograms. The missile has an accuracy of 10-20 meters CEP (circular error probable)and is equipped with an electro-optical system for trajectory correction.

Increased combat activity

Grosberg said, that fighting has become more intensive when compared to a week earlier, with Russia launching attacks on some new Ukrainian positions. He singled out the Orikhiv region in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, as well as the Avdiivka region in Donetsk Oblast in particular.

However, the main focus of fighting remains in Bakhmut, where Russian units have made some progress to the south of the city.

Despite this, Grosberg said, in the bigger picture, the line of contact remains unchanged. The colonel expects the war to progress in a similar fashion over the coming weeks, until the weather conditions worsen and roads become more difficult to pass.


Follow ERR News on Facebook and Twitter and never miss an update!

Editor: Michael Cole

Hea lugeja, näeme et kasutate vanemat brauseri versiooni või vähelevinud brauserit.

Parema ja terviklikuma kasutajakogemuse tagamiseks soovitame alla laadida uusim versioon mõnest meie toetatud brauserist: