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Expert: Ukraine successes against Black Sea Fleet curtailed Russia missile strikes

Rainer Saks.
Rainer Saks. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Ukraine's recent successful strikes on Russia's Black Sea fleet may be one of the primary reasons why Russian forces have not conducted as many missile attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure so far this winter, as had previously been the case, security analyst Rainer Saks says.

Appearing on radio show "Vikerhommik" Wednesday, Saks called it "notable that Russia has not conducted out missile attacks on the scale as it had last year, but has been making strikes on Ukraine primarily with Iranian-made drones.

"However, they have not been able to cause significant damage to the Ukraine's infrastructure in the cold period now underway" Saks went on, referring to the winter.

In response to a question about what was behind this reduction in frequency of Russian missile attacks, Saks first off pointed to the problem with stockpiles.

"Russia cannot use up all its reserves of tactical missiles in order to attack Ukraine," he said.

The expert noted that it is also not known what Russia's capacity to produce more missiles might be. "Some claim that it produces a sufficient quantity, but then again some commentators have probably also fallen for Russian propaganda on this. If Russia claims it is using three shifts in production, the question then arises why these [missiles] are not being used en masse," contrasting this winter so far with 12 months ago, when Russia had been able to inflict damage on 40 percent of Ukraine's electricity infrastructure.

Saks further pointed out that Ukraine has been able to boost its air defense during 2023, thanks to additional funds received from many Western nations. Concurrently, Ukraine has also been able to hit Russian missile production plants with its drones and, it is thought, via the use of special forces personnel.

"However, the most important aspect may be that Russia has made use of a substantial proportion of its Black Sea fleet in the past, in order to plan and organize missile attacks. However, Ukraine's strikes on that Black Sea fleet have been highly effective, and what is particularly important is that the fleet's headquarters and also its reserve headquarters have been knocked out, through the course of autumn. Perhaps this is the most serious factor behind Russia's inability to plan these attacks effectively," argued Saks.

"But winter is not over yet so maybe they will conduct new strikes. Given the strategic picture has become more unfavorable for Russia, they should from their perspective in fact try to carry out missile attacks once again," he added.

Saks also brought out Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu's announcement on Tuesday that Russia's goal for the year soon to end had been to thwart the Ukrainian offensive, which Russia says it has succeeded in doing. "This is not a complete falsehood, there's some truth in the claim. But if you consider what Russia's goals were, we have a completely transformed picture. Whereas for almost two years it had been consistently stated [in Russia] that Ukraine has no chance of holding out, now Russia's goal, for almost a whole year in fact, was to thwart a Ukrainian offensive," Saks continued.

"So by doing this, the Russian defense minister himself has in effect admitted that the picture has changed in strategic terms."

Saks also commented on Belarus' announcement on allowing Russian nuclear weapons on to its territory, and discussions underway in Ukraine about mobilization. Latest developments here include reducing the minimum age for those liable to mobilization by two years, to 25.

The FT reports that Ukrainian air force spokespersons said on Tuesday that the Novocherkassk, a large landing ship, had been hit by cruise missiles while at anchor in the port of Feodosia, on the eastern side of Crimea.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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