Long stories short
- At least 52 people died in an apartment building fire in Johannesburg.
- Leaked emails show Putin ordered his superyacht Graceful moved from Hamburg three weeks before invading Ukraine.
- Abba’s Agnetha Faltskog, 73, said she would relaunch her solo career with a new single due out tomorrow.
Sting like a bee
On Tuesday night Ukrainian drones destroyed four Russian military transport planes on the ground at an air base 400 miles north of the eastern front in Russia’s war.
So what? The US thinks Ukraine is being distracted by the temptation to lunge at targets deep inside Russia when it should be concentrating effort and resources on the southern front. Ukraine has been listening, but it has its own ideas as well:
- Don’t be stronger, be smarter;
- In the absence – still – of western fighter jets and air superiority at home, use drones on Russian military facilities and decision-making centres; and
- Choose targets with the aim of preventing air strikes but also Russian use of paratroopers for ground operations.
Strike record. Russia hasn’t tried using paratroopers since the first days of the war but each of the Ilyushin 76s destroyed this week in Pskov could carry 126 of them. In addition, Ukrainian or at least anti-Putin drones have hit
- the Kremlin (a symbolic attack in May);
- the Kerch Strait bridge linking southern Russia to Crimea in July;
- a Russian oil tanker in the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk in early August;
- a long-range supersonic Tupolev Tu-22M bomber south of St Petersburg two weeks ago; and
- a MiG-29 and four Su-30 fighters at an airbase near Kursk last weekend
Fair game. General Valery Zaluzhny, Ukraine’s most senior military commander, is famous for his high praise for his soldiers. He defends his drone strategy as a way of defending their lives.
“To save my people, why do I have to ask someone for permission what to do on enemy territory?” he asked in an interview with the Washington Post last month. “It is possible and necessary to kill on his territory in a war. If our partners are afraid to use their weapons, we will kill with our own. But only as much as is necessary.” President Zelensky supports this line, saying attacks on Russian territory are an “inevitable, natural and absolutely fair process”.
Starve, stretch and strike. This is how the UK’s Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, has described Ukraine’s counter-offensive strategy. It isn’t working as fast as Ukraine’s allies hoped, and Radakin is one of a group of Nato top brass urging Zaluzhny to focus on cutting the land bridge to the Sea of Azov. There are signs he’s taking their advice.
Remote control. Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials say the attacks on targets within Russia are not in fact a drain on Ukrainian resources. “Everything that happens now with drones on the territory of Moscovia [the old name of Russia before it became an empire] is only the consequence of its military aggression against Ukraine,” Andriy Chernyak of Ukraine’s military intelligence says.
But when drone attacks occur up to 700 km from the Ukrainian border – in Moscow, St Petersburg, Pskov, Ryazan and Kaluga – Chernyak says it’s worth noting Ukraine’s home-made drones can’t fly that far.
He claims all these drones start and finish their flights on Russian territory and are operated by Russian citizens collaborating with Ukrainian military intelligence.
“These people have different motives. It does not mean they are necessarily pro-Ukrainian, but at the moment our interests coincide,” Chernyak says.
Homework. Ukraine’s interests include attacking military targets on land and sea but also galvanising protest inside Russia. That said, the drones are having zero impact on a revived Soviet-style military-industrial complex producing hundreds of missiles to attack targets across Ukraine. The latest attack on Kyiv and Odesa, before dawn yesterday, comprised 28 missiles and 16 drones.
Ukraine is still hungry for shells and thirsty for F-16s.
Also, in the nibs
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