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Expert: Russia may have run out of experienced pilots

Hannes Toomsalu.
Hannes Toomsalu. Source: ERR

Russia may have run out of pilots and is unable to defend itself against Western weapons used by Ukraine, an expert said. Russia is likely preparing more offensive activities after the presidential elections in 2024.

The sinking of Russia's Novocherkassk warship by Ukrainian airstrike and several Sukhoi fighter jets in recent days suggests Russia's military is unable to defend itself against Western missiles, reservist Estonian Defense Forces Col. Hannes Toomsalu said. Additionally, there may be a shortage of experienced pilots.

"The ship was allegedly hit by a French SCALP [long-range cruise missile]. And the Ukrainian SU-27 fired. Whether the planes that fired [the missiles] were shot down or not, the SCALP has a range of 560 kilometers. So you do not have to go into the air defense zone at all – now it is possible to hit the target from further away," said Toomsalu.

"As for the [Russian] planes, there is a possibility that they were shot down by Patriots [surface-to-air missiles] – this is the most likely option. The other possibility is that the Russians have actually run out of pilots. The young do not yet understand how to fight old, experienced ones," he said.

Before Christmas, Russia said it shot down three fighter aircraft and one tactical bomber, which Ukraine denies.

Col. Eero Rebo. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

On the ground, Russian forces are advancing step by step, and the Ukrainians are on the defensive. Aid packages for Ukraine are stuck in the U.S. Congress and EU. No further decisions will be made until 2024.

Until then, the Ukrainians just have to stand their ground, said Eero Rebo, chief of the General Staff of the volunteer Estonian Defense League (Kaitseliit).

"The Ukrainians have stood firm for nine-plus years. They're certainly still standing," said Rebo. "Now is probably the worst time to seek any kind of peace, with the Russian Federation elections coming up in March."

Russia is unlikely to launch a new wave of mobilization before the presidential elections. At the same time, it is currently using fewer missiles than usual. Experts believe the country is probably preparing for activities on the front after the elections.

Toomsalu said the Russian troops' next offensive can be expected in the spring, for example in April.

Rebo said: "The Ukrainians, of course, also see fear in the Russian mobilization and, as I understand it, are preparing their own mobilization."

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Editor: Barbara Oja, Helen Wright

Source: Aktuaalne kaamera

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