The heat is on once more as Russia and Ukraine traded the first round of a winter drone campaign, deepening a confrontation that has been ongoing for months on end.
This latest exchange comes as no surprise, with Kyiv launching a series of strikes, including targeting Moscow, just a day after a record-breaking barrage of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) against Ukrainian territories.
Recent Events in the Conflict
Russia’s Defense Ministry reported that within 24 hours, 24 Ukrainian drones were intercepted and shot down over the country, including Moscow, Tula, Kaluga, Bryansk, and Smolensk oblasts.
Additionally, over 50 UAVs were downed over the Russian-occupied regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine.
“Seventeen HIMARS MLRS (multiple launch rocket systems) projectiles have been intercepted over the past 24 hours,” the ministry added, as cited by CNN.
Amidst these clashes, the Ministry intercepted two S-200 anti-aircraft missiles over the Sea of Azov, repurposed by both sides to target ground installations.
⚡️ Russia claims Ukrainian drone downed near Moscow.
Russian air defenses downed an attack drone on approach toward Russia's capital on Nov. 29, Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin claimed.https://t.co/6K2B0DO9oR
— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) November 29, 2023
Drone Warfare: Impact and Response
While Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin assured that there were no injuries or significant damages in the capital, Alexey Dyumin, the governor of the Tula region, south of Moscow, reported a drone crashing into an apartment building, causing minor damages and one person’s light injury.
In Donetsk, a drone damaged a regional power station, leading to local blackouts, as confirmed by Denis Pushilin, the head of the Russian puppet occupation administration.
The drone strikes coincided with a major storm hitting southern Ukraine, prompting blackouts across Crimea and Donetsk amidst freezing temperatures.
Bad weather has caused power outages in more than 2,000 towns and villages in 16 regions of Ukraine and has also blocked road traffic.
I am grateful to all rescuers, utility workers, the National Police, local authorities, and engineers working around the clock to help people. pic.twitter.com/5Md8dzk5sl
— Volodymyr Zelenskyy / Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) November 27, 2023
As winter sets in with snow and freezing conditions covering much of Ukraine and western Russia, this marks the end of the 2023 fighting season, signaling Russia’s expected repetition of its 2022 winter drone and missile campaign to exert pressure on Kyiv.
Kyiv responded to Russia’s actions by launching its own drone bombardment the following day.
This retaliatory move occurred after Russia’s deployment of 75 Iranian-made Shahed kamikaze drones against Ukrainian targets, with Ukrainian air defense teams successfully downing all but one UAV during the over-six-hour attack.
Analysis of Current Situation
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had earlier cautioned the citizens about the possibility of increased drone or missile strikes on their infrastructure.
Thousands of our people show the best and the strongest qualities of character for the sake of Ukraine's freedom and independence. And they always do so, regardless of the conditions or the weather. Now we must support them even more, we must not forget to thank those who perform… pic.twitter.com/QVav9oX0Yp
— Volodymyr Zelenskyy / Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) November 28, 2023
He emphasized the need to focus on defense against such attacks and hinted at Ukraine’s enhanced preparedness to counter Russian strikes compared to the previous winter.
“We are almost halfway through November and we must be prepared for the fact that the enemy may increase the number of drone or missile strikes on our infrastructure,” Zelensky posted via Telegram last November 13.
Zelensky’s warnings seem substantiated as Ukraine intensifies its use of drone attacks within Russian borders and continues maritime and aerial drone assaults in occupied territories, including Crimea.
“Russia is preparing for winter. And in Ukraine, all our attention should be focused on defense, on response to terrorists, on everything Ukraine can do to make it easier for our people to get through this winter and to increase the capabilities of our troops,” he added.
Ukraine’s Drone Development
Ukraine has been actively developing new drone platforms aimed at striking back at Russia.
Notably, the “Beaver” long-range UAV, believed to have been used in attacks on Moscow, has already entered mass production.
With a range of approximately 620 miles, this drone puts major Russian cities within striking distance.
Ordinary citizens funded the classified Black Box project, leading to the covert development and production of the 800 km range Beaver suicide drone.https://t.co/DoBMRSaas5
— Euromaidan Press (@EuromaidanPress) November 30, 2023
Ukraine’s collaborative efforts with foreign partners to enhance this drone system indicate a concerted push toward becoming a global leader in drone production.
Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s “drone tsar,” highlighted the unique experience gained through the usage and constant improvement of drone technologies during the ongoing conflict.
He foresees Ukraine becoming a significant exporter of UAVs once the war concludes, with its expertise in drone usage being studied by other nations in the future.
The recent escalation in drone warfare between Russia and Ukraine indicates a growing reliance on unmanned aerial vehicles as a strategic tool in modern conflicts.
As both nations continue to advance their drone technologies and tactics, the global implications of Ukraine’s expertise in wartime drone usage are poised to be significant.
In conclusion, the exchange of winter drone campaigns between Russia and Ukraine underscores the evolving nature of warfare in the modern era.
With drones becoming increasingly integral to military strategies, the ongoing conflict serves as a testament to the significance of technological advancements and their impact on geopolitical dynamics.