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Russians willing to lose aircraft in order to advance – ISW

Wednesday, 6 March 2024, 04:47
Russians willing to lose aircraft in order to advance – ISW
Russian SU-35. Stock photo: Getty Images

Russian aircraft continue to carry out a relatively high number of airstrikes on Ukraine, despite reports from Ukrainian officials that Ukrainian forces have shot down several bombers in recent weeks.

Source: Institute for the Study of War (ISW)

Details: On 4 March, Forbes reported that Russian Su-34 jets, escorted by Su-35 aircraft, were flying a hundred or more sorties a day to bomb Ukrainian positions within 25 miles (about 40 kilometres).

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On 5 March, the New York Times reported that Russian tactics were shifting towards intensified air operations and that "more aggressive" air support for Russian troops on the front lines had helped Russian forces make recent advances in eastern Ukraine.

These reports indicate that the Russian Air Force is maintaining a high level of air operations in Ukraine and may be willing to accept the risks to aircraft, likely because the Russian command has decided that the positive effects of such air operations outweigh the costs associated with such missions.

Military analysts recalled that Russian troops had used glide bomb strikes for tactical effect when capturing Avdiivka in mid-February and are likely trying to replicate this effect to support ongoing offensives in other parts of the front line.

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ISW is unable to independently verify Ukrainian reports of Su-34 downings in recent weeks.

To quote the ISW’s Key Takeaways on 5 March:

  • Ukraine destroyed the Project 22160 Sergei Kotov large patrol ship of the Black Sea Fleet (BSF) off the coast of the Kerch Strait on the night of 4-5 March.
  • Russian milbloggers responded to the sinking of the Sergei Kotov by decrying the Russian military command’s lack of response to the incident and mounting a wider critique against the bureaucratic inertia of the Russian military apparatus.
  • Russian aircraft appear to be continuing to conduct a relatively high volume of glide bomb strikes in Ukraine despite Ukrainian officials’ reports that Ukrainian forces have downed several bomber aircraft in recent weeks.
  • Russia and China are deepening their strategic space cooperation, including cooperation on satellite surveillance and space exploration.
  • The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for two senior Russian commanders for their responsibility in perpetrating Russian war crimes – the first time the ICC has charged Russian military commanders.
  • Russian forces are reportedly operating a "black market" to sell Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs), including to Russian paramilitary groups that may be conducting their own POW exchanges with Ukraine.
  • The director of the Moldovan Intelligence and Security Service, Alexandru Musteata, stated on 5 March that the Kremlin has begun to conduct multi-year hybrid operations aimed at destabilising Moldova and preventing its accession to the EU.
  • Russian forces recently made confirmed advances near Donetsk City amid continued positional engagements along the entire line of contact on 5 March.
  • Russian authorities are reportedly disbanding elements of the former Wagner Group that were supposed to join Rosgvardia or are currently in Belarus.
  • Russian law enforcement is likely intensifying crackdowns against Crimean Tatars in occupied Crimea.

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