'Nightmare' for Russia as Ukraine strikes base with British Storm Shadow missiles - by James Kilner
for The Telegraph - 13.05.23
Analysts say Kremlin's air defence will struggle as it comes under attack from Kyiv's newest weaponry.
British Storm Shadow cruise missiles have been fired for the first time by Ukrainian forces, hitting a Russian supply depot and a military command centre 80 miles behind the front line.
The missile strikes appear timed to coincide with Ukrainian counter attacks this week on Russian positions around Bakhmut, which have routed a Russian infantry unit.
A factory used to store military equipment and a government building used to plan Russian attacks were destroyed in Luhansk City in the Storm Shadow missile attacks on Friday and Saturday, local media reported.
Russia’s Ministry of Defence confirmed the attacks but claimed that the missiles had hit residential buildings.
The Kremlin's forces had considered Luhansk City to be beyond the range of Ukrainian firepower and had used it as a base for soldiers to rest and recover and to host visiting Russian dignitaries who didn’t want to get too close to the fighting.
Videos showed thick black smoke billowing into the sky from the charred remains of the factory and the government building. Photos also showed an alleged fragment of missile casing inscribed with the “Storm Shadow” name.
Storm Shadow missiles, which are launched from warplanes, carry large warheads designed to destroy hardened and even buried targets.
Analysts also said that at least one US MALD decoy missile, which carries no explosive warhead but uses sophisticated electronics to distract defence systems, had been fired in the attacks.
'Some important things will blow up'
“This is going to be a living nightmare for Russian air defence. I suspect that we will see some important things blow up in the near future,” said Oliver Alexander, a defence and security analyst.
Britain only announced on Thursday that it had agreed to give Ukraine an undisclosed number of Storm Shadow missiles.
They have a range of more than 180 miles, compared with 40 miles for the ground-launched Himars artillery that forced Russian generals to move their supply lines and headquarters further from the frontline when they were given to Ukraine last summer.
The Storm Shadow missiles mean that Ukraine is now able to hit any target in any part of its territory, including the whole of Crimea.
Rybar, a Russian military blog, told its one million Telegram subscribers that Russian officials risked underestimating the impact of the Storm Shadow missiles.
“They hastened to reassure everybody and to tell them that there was no great danger from these cruise missiles and that everybody is ready for them, but two days of strikes on Luhansk shows that this is not true,” it said.
The deployment of the Storm Shadow missiles coincided with Ukrainian counterattacks on Russian positions along the front line near Bakhmut, which the British Ministry of Defence said triggered Russia's 72nd Separate Motor Rifle Brigade to withdraw “in bad order” from the southern flank.
“Ukrainian forces regained at least 1km of territory,” it said.
In Russia’s southern Bryansk region, the closest Russian region to Kyiv, a Russian Mi-8 military helicopter and an Su-34 warplane crashed in separate incidents on Saturday. Russia’s ministry of defence said that at least two people were killed in the crashes. It denied that they had been shot down.
It came as Germany unveiled its largest batch of military aid for Ukraine so far on Saturday. Worth around £2.4 billion, it will include 30 Leopard 1 tanks, Gepard air defence vehicles and other weapons.
UK MoD/Crown Copyright
The UK's Royal Air Force arms its Eurofighter Typhoon jets with Storm Shadow missiles