Russia’s plane battles in Ukraine are detailed in UK Intelligence Update

Russian forces in Ukraine have lost large numbers of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which sanctions will make it increasingly difficult to replenish, the UK Defense Ministry has said.

The unmanned aerial vehicles play a key role for both sides in the conflict but are “vulnerable” to being shot down and jammed, British defense officials said in their daily intelligence assessment.

Officials said Russia is trying to implement the “reconnaissance strike” concept, refined in Syria, in which reconnaissance UAVs identify targets to be hit by fighter jets or artillery.

Russian drone
A Ukrainian soldier stands next to a crashed Russian drone in northwest Kyiv, March 22, 2022. The UK Ministry of Defense said on May 21, 2022 that Russia is facing a shortage of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
Aris Messinis/Getty Images

However, Russia is likely to face a “shortage” of these UAVs “exacerbated by restrictions on its domestic production capacity as a result of sanctions,” the ministry said.

Therefore, manned Russian aircraft are likely to continue avoiding sorties over Ukrainian territory “due to the threat of intact Ukrainian air defense missile systems.”

The UK MoD said if Russia continued to lose unmanned aerial vehicles at the current rate, “the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities of the Russian armed forces will be further compromised” and this would “negatively” affect their combat capability.

news week has asked the Russian Defense Ministry for comment.

It comes as a separate assessment predicted that Russian forces would focus on “digging in and reinforcing” defensive positions in the second-biggest city of Kharkiv in the Donbass region and along the southern axis while preparing for Ukrainian counter-offensives.

The US think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said that Russian forces north, west and south of Popasna in the Lugansk region may have made “slight gains” so they could continue their offensive on Severodonetsk from the south.

Russia declared victory at the Azovstal Steel Plant in the southern port city of Mariupol, which it had “completely liberated” after weeks of bombing and Ukrainian resistance. Moscow says 531 Ukrainian troops have left the compound.

However, the ISW said on Friday it may have “overstated” how many Ukrainian defenders had been evacuated.

That was because Moscow wanted to maximize the number of Russian POWs to be exchanged “or to avoid the embarrassment of admitting they were locked in a months-long siege against only ‘hundreds’ of Ukrainian soldiers”.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said his country could win on the battlefield but things could only end at the negotiating table.

Amid deadlocked negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv, Zelenskyy said on Ukrainian television on Saturday that the war would be “bloody, there will be fighting, but it will only end with diplomacy.” Russia’s plane battles in Ukraine are detailed in UK Intelligence Update

Rick Schindler

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