According to Colonel Margo Grosberg, Chief of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) intelligence center, the Russian armed forces have begun using meteorological balloons in their aggression to obtain information on Ukrainian air defense positions, as reported by Estonian Public Broadcasting (ERR) radio and television organization.
“This week, for the first time, a strange phenomenon occurred, when meteorological balloons were observed over Kyiv. I don’t know whether the Russian Federation got this idea from the [recent alleged] Chinese [spy] balloons [in the US] or from somewhere else, but in any case, we can see that this new tactic has now been introduced,” Colonel Grosberg said at an Estonian Ministry of Defense briefing on Friday.
According to Grosberg, the main goal of launching meteorological balloons into Ukraine is to exhaust Ukrainian air defenses. Thus, they must track and destroy them because what the balloons may be carrying is unknown.
“This both wastes anti-aircraft weapons and exhausts the crews. It also makes the anti-aircraft crews visible as a result of their actions, because you can then see where the missiles are coming from,” Grosberg explained.
Colonel Grosberg also stated that meteorological balloons are far less expensive than a spent anti-aircraft missile. Hence, it is a very low-cost and clever trick.
Chief of the EDF it “remains to be seen how long [it will go on for] and how the Ukrainians will respond to this maneuver.”
According to Grosberg, the objects appeared to be ordinary meteorological balloons carrying no military or intelligence cargo. Balloons shot down carried reflectors to ensure that air defense radars detected them. It is part of the strategy aimed at depleting Ukraine’s air defenses.
Additionally, Grosberg pointed out that the airstrike on the city of Lviv in western Ukraine in January used a cruise missile manufactured this year.
“Inspection of the remains of the Kh-101 missile has led to the conclusion that it was produced this year. This shows that Russia continues to have the capability to produce these kinds of missiles. At the moment, we do not know and are not able to assess, whether it is (using) pre-war stockpiles that allows them to produce these kinds of missiles to be produced or whether there are other factors behind it,” stated Colonel Grosberg.
The Kh-101 is an air-launched cruise missile with a range of 3,000 kilometers and can carry warheads weighing up to 450 kilograms. The missile has a CEP (circular error probable) accuracy of 10-20 meters. It is also equipped with an electro-optical system for trajectory correction.