Russia’s new air campaign may not significantly hinder Ukraine’s offensive capabilities – ISW

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Editor’s Note

In its latest assessment of the Russian offensive campaign in Ukraine, the US-based think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW) says Russia’s new air campaign in Ukraine involving drone and missile strikes is aimed at weakening Ukraine’s ability to launch counteroffensive operations, but the diminished effectiveness of these strikes is likely not significantly constraining Ukrainian capabilities.

Increasingly regular series of Russian drone and missile strikes are likely a part of a new Russian air campaign in Ukraine aimed at degrading Ukrainian abilities to conduct counteroffensive offensive operations in the near term. 

Russian forces have conducted at least 10 series of strikes throughout Ukraine, particularly in rear areas, since April 19 (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9). Russian forces have used significantly fewer high-precision missiles in these latest series of strikes in comparison to their failed campaign against Ukrainian critical infrastructure from the fall of 2022 through the winter of 2023. ISW previously assessed that Russian forces likely expended a significant proportion of their precision missiles in the previous air campaign, and the current Russian air campaign may be using far fewer of these missiles in an effort to conserve the limited remaining stocks.

Russian forces have instead relied heavily on launching large numbers of Iranian-made Shahed drones to overwhelm Ukrainian air defenses, although Ukrainian forces have been more effective in shooting down Russian precision systems than during the previous Russian air campaign.

The new Russian air campaign appears to be focused on Kyiv and alleged Ukrainian military-industrial and logistics facilities in deep rear areas. The more limited air campaign has so far been more regular than the previous wider Russian campaign against critical infrastructure, and ISW has previously assessed that Russian forces may be attempting to conduct almost daily series of strikes to portray themselves as successfully constraining potential upcoming Ukrainian counteroffensive operations.

The alleged targets and limited nature of this campaign indicates that Russian forces are immediately concerned with current Ukrainian capabilities to launch counteroffensive operations, although the diminished effectiveness of these strikes are likely not significantly constraining Ukrainian capabilities writ large.

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