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EDF officer: Qualitative leap seen in Ukraine's air defenses over past year

Lt. Col. Toomas Väli appearing on an earlier edition of 'Ukraina stuudio.'
Lt. Col. Toomas Väli appearing on an earlier edition of 'Ukraina stuudio.' Source: ERR

Russian forces occupying and attacking Ukraine are retaining the tactics seen last year, with strikes on Ukrainian towns and cities, including those on civilians.

At the same time, Ukrainian forces' ability to repel these attacks, thanks to better prior intelligence and a more integrated air defense system nationwide, represent a qualitative leap in their defense capabilities over the past year, Lt Col. Toomas Väli of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) says.

Russian forces have been constantly launching missile and drone strikes on Ukrainian cities in recent weeks.

These are, Lt Col. Väli said, primarily aimed at breaking the will of civilians and civil society's ability to defend itself.

Appearing on ETV show "Ukraina stuudio," Lt Col. Väi said: "Our understanding isthat the trikes are often not aimed at military targets, as was the case with Germans and their raids on London during World War Two."

A quieter period earlier on corresponded to Russia's activity in amassing missiles and drones in order to re-use the same tactics it had last year.

One difference however is that Ukraine has been able to integrate its Eastern and Western air defenses into one functioning unit, Väli said, and has made better use of its early warning systems and intel gathering.

"A major positive change has been seen in Ukraine's air defense over the past year," he said.

Russian forces can also be outfoxed, he noted, citing the example of the reported destruction of three Russian Sukhoi Su-34 all-weather fighter-bombers.

The Ukrainians probably used an element of surprise here, in the area around Kherson, Väli went on.

"The ability to see through an opponent's maneuver is something the Ukrainians are very professional in," Väli said.

At the same time, the Ukrainians have managed to carry out airstrikes on Russian territory, plus on the occupied Crimea, demonstration of the possibility of breaking through the much-vaunted Russian air defense system, the officer continued.

Nonetheless, caution should be exercised with regard to those who claim that Russia has run out of missiles and shells.

"We must understand that Western sanctions have affected the Russian economy. At the same time, this is already a wartime economy we are speaking out - people work in three shifts and produce according to needs," Väli said.

Similarly, it is also worth treating with caution the claims that the missiles provided by North Korea have been pressed into use by the Russian military immediately, and without issue.

Väli cast doubt on them even being North Korean-produced in the first place, with only some components or even just unguided missiles, or "dumb bombs," originating in North Korea, for use by Russia's arms industry.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Marko Tooming

Source: 'Ukraina stuudio,' interviewer Reimo Sildvee.

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