Seventy-Three Percent Kill Rate Against Russian Cruise Missiles

According to the Institute for Study of War (ISW), Russian armed forces continue their almost non-stop attacks on civilian buildings and critical infrastructure in attempts to dampen the Ukrainian spirit to fight. For example, on November 23rd, Russians launched 70 cruise missiles and five drones at infrastructure targets.

Telegram feed from the Ukrainian Air Force.

Some in the west are growing used to hearing reports such as this every day and, because of the repetition, dismiss them as “business as usual,” I assure you they are anything but. Ukrainians continue to fear for their lives in attacks that walk a fine line between acts of warfare and terrorism. Russia is attacking soft infrastructure targets because they are unsuccessful at hitting defended military targets. This probably reflects problems with their ability to obtain intelligence on military targets and quickly turn that into targeting missions.

The good news is that Ukrainian forces are getting quite skilled at preventing enemy missiles from reaching their targets. As you can see in the post above from the Ukrainian Air Force, they shot down 51 of the 70 cruise missiles, and all five drones launched against them earlier in the week. The cruise missiles were of the Kh-101/Kh-555 kalibr type costing $13 million and $7.5 million each, respectively. This figure is from Ukrainian Pravda and has not been independently verified.

For the value of the targets, they are hitting these cruise missile attacks are not a good turn on the investment.  Russia is spending between $525 and $910 million dollars on a single stick of this size.  They not doing an equivalent amount in terms of damage on Ukrainian infrastructure.

It may be the intention of the Russians to run the Ukrainians out of surface-to-air missiles with the hope that more will be able to get through.  This is possible, we do not know the capability of Ukraine to replace expended S-300 missiles which makes up but the bulk of their anti-air/anti-missile defence system, but it is inferred by the fact that Ukraine is requesting additional systems from the West like the Hawk and Patriot missiles systems to augment their own.

Lancet loitering munitions can do quite a lot of damage, as shown in the video above, where their forward-facing cameras show them destroying two Ukrainian M109A3GN 155mm self-propelled howitzers.

Both ISW and SOFREP have reported recently that Russian forces continue to be able to mount fairly large-scale attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure despite the rapid rate at which they are depleting their arsenal. In addition, we have discovered through various sources that Iran and North Korea have been providing munitions to Russia in violation of internationally placed sanctions.

Hanna Maliar

Hanna Maliar, the Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister, has also taken to Telegram to get her message out. In a November 23 post, she says, “The vast majority of enemy missile strikes have recently been aimed at energy infrastructure facilities. These are attacks primarily on the civilian population, which is as indomitable as our military. Attacks on energy will not help Russia strengthen its position in this war.” She continues, “The destruction of energy infrastructure facilities will not affect the ability of our Defense Forces to stop the enemy and liberate temporarily occupied territories. Our military is ready to conduct hostilities in any conditions.”

She is shown in a selfie, sourced from Twitter and posted above, with Natalia Humeniuk, the spokeswoman of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, as they report back live to the Ukrainian people from the front in mid-October.

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It seems the more Russia tries to knock out Ukrainian infrastructure, the quicker they are to turn the lights on again and remind their Russian foes that it will take more than that to defeat Ukraine. Maliar addressed that point as well in the Telegram post. She says, “Likewise, it will not weaken the motivation of the civilian population. The enemy is mistaken if he believes that the destruction of the energy infrastructure will direct the efforts of Ukrainians mainly to protect the rear and distract from the front in the east and south.”

Russia simply cannot afford to keep firing multi-million dollar missiles at Ukraine, only to have them struck down seven out of ten times. Forbes estimates that Russia has spent somewhere between $5.54 and $6.81 billion on missiles used to attack Ukraine thus far. As a point of reference, they tell us that the average monthly Russian pension is about 20,882 roubles, the equivalent of roughly $335 USD. That’s 16.4 to 20 million average Russian pensions mostly gone to waste since the February 24 invasion. The people know this and are not thrilled about it. If it hasn’t already, it will soon affect them in quite tangible ways.

Map of Ukraine
The situation on the ground in Ukraine as of November 23, 2022. Shared with permission of the Institute for the Study of War and AEI’s Critical Threats Project.

Russians Continue to Deny the Existence of Ukraine as a Nation

ISW reports that well-known journalist and deputy chairman of Moscow’s city parliament Andrey Medvedev posted what they call “openly genocidal rhetoric” on a recent verbal onslaught against the Ukrainian people. Medvedev repeatedly denied the existence of Ukraine as a nation and instead referred to the country as simply a “political orientation.” He went as far as calling the Ukrainian people a “pagan cult of death” and called for the “total liquidation of Ukrainian statehood in its current form.” 

This is a classic example of the dehumanization of the enemy in war, something we witnessed time and time again during World War II when numerous propaganda posters showed the Japanese with animal-like features. The idea is that an enemy that is seen as “less than human” is supposedly easier to kill because you aren’t really killing a person. This is an extreme form of racism.

The New York Times has reported on how Russian President Putin believed the “idea of Ukrainian statehood was fiction.” He claimed Ukraine to be an invention of Vladimir Lenin, who he feels “mistakenly endowed Ukraine with a sense of statehood” by giving it a certain amount of autonomy within the framework of the Soviet Union.

Putin is quoted as saying,

“Modern Ukraine was entirely and fully created by Russia, more specifically the Bolshevik, communist Russia. This process began practically immediately after the 1917 revolution, and moreover Lenin and his associates did it in the sloppiest way in relation to Russia — by dividing, tearing from her pieces of her own historical territory.”

In Putin’s way of thinking, if Ukrainian statehood was a mistake made by Lenin, he is justified, even obligated, to correct that “mistake” through his “special military operation.” Perhaps he believes it is his destiny.