Russia just up and left its second most important city, St. Petersburg.

In the satellite images procured by Finnish outlet Yle, Russia’s anti-aircraft missile bases were almost emptied earlier this month.

Movement around the region’s military base has been monitored over the months, and satellite images show Russia pulling out its missiles and other artillery from St. Petersburg. The images also showed that mobile firing platforms were moved from the Zelenogorsk (Terijoki) area on the Karelian Isthmus, northwest of St. Petersburg.

Russia has not made these movements public, but the images clearly show how they have emptied all of the equipment in the region. Military Expert Maj. (Ret.) Marko Eklund told Yle that he has been monitoring Russian armed forces for twenty years and that this could imply Russia’s trying to push their anti-aircraft missiles on the frontlines. As for whether this would weaken St. Petersburg’s air defenses, Eklund said this would not have a big dent since these armaments were probably old.

The area of this 500th Anti-Aircraft Missile Regiment battery appears to be completely abandoned. (Source: Google Earth Aug. 2021)

 

 

 

 

The area of this 500th Anti-Aircraft Missile Regiment battery appears to be completely abandoned. (Source: Planet Labs 2 Sept. 2022)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Aside from the missile systems, the analyzed satellite images also showed that military vehicles, radar equipment, container fleets, and twelve S-300 firing platforms have also been removed from the 500th Anti-Aircraft Missile Regiment battery. The location now appears to be completely abandoned. Another batter about half kilometers to the northeast has also been emptied.

“Thus only two of the regiment’s four batteries remain in place. Pictures obtained by Yle show that about 25 missile containers, possibly containing 100 missiles, have been removed from one of the two remaining batteries.”

Eklund added that another base east of St. Petersburg (near Lake Ladoga) used to have missile containers, but now they are missing and have been loaded onto transport platforms. Eklund also pointed out that an interview (see video below) with Russian armed forces said the regiment is using the newer S-400 anti-aircraft missile system (that was introduced about 15 years ago). And in the analysis of satellite images, all of the S-400 missile systems in the region were also gone.

 

 

“It is most likely that the equipment that has been removed is primarily from the old S-300 system,” said Eklund.

Russian Anti-Aircraft Missiles Kill Civilians

As the movement of “new” and older S-300s and S-400s out of St. Peterburg implies Russia is scouring for more artillery, we have to take note that Russia’s anti-aircraft missiles have been hitting civilian targets since the war began. One example is the event on Aug. 29 when Russians attacked Mykolaiv, a southern region in Ukraine, with 16 anti-aircraft missiles and, killing two people injuring 24.

Then, on Sept. 14, S-300 missiles attacked Mykolaiv again and killed two more civilians.

“In Finland, decommissioned explosives are detonated every year near Pokka, Lapland. It seems that as Russia runs out of its supplies of first-line military equipment, it is using Ukraine like Pokka,” Eklund said.

 

Military expert Oleg Katkov said Russians are specifically using S-300s to terrorize civilians. The more they sow fear in regular citizens, the more (they are hoping) Ukrainians will open up the gates for negotiations. The S-300s could probably be implemented more to attack Ukrainian morale than to actually deter Ukrainian ground forces within their borders. As for the S-400s, Eklund notes it is not practical for Russia to use them for “this kind of mixed use.”

In its war against Ukraine, Russia has hardly had to use anti-aircraft missiles for their actual purpose, which is destroying missiles, aircraft or helicopters, because there has been little air combat over Ukraine. Ukraine does, however, make significant use of drones,” the report notes.

Is Russia Just Using Anti-aircraft for Advertising Purposes?

Since the Russians have rarely used anti-aircraft missiles throughout the war, is there another reason they keep on mobilizing these S-300s and S-400s now? Yes, probably. According to a report, India (and Turkey) have continued to support the Russian weapons-making industry by dealing with the country, particularly with acquiring S-400 missiles.

The Indian government had pledged to purchase 2019-2020 versions of the S-400 missiles in a $5.5 billion package deal.

Meanwhile, Turkey has continued their military training program on S-400 operators who traveled to Russia for a first-hand experience in 2019. About twenty Turkish servicemen underwent training after the government announced its decision to purchase more S-400s from Russia.

Though the US warned Turkey of the risks of doing business with the Russians, NATO released a statement saying it is up to them where they would be sourcing their military equipment.

“It is up to allies to decide what military equipment they buy. However, we are concerned about the potential consequences of Turkey’s decision to acquire the S-400 system,” a NATO official said.

As of writing, these S-300s and S-400s have not made an appearance on the battlefield yet, but their mobilization could be a cause for warning Ukrainians on what they should expect next.