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Frontline report: Russia attacks Ukraine with drones and missiles, Ukrainian defenses stand firm

Debris of a downed Russian missile on the road in Kyiv’s Obolon district that crashed during the morning attack on 29 May 2023. Photo via Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko
Frontline report: Russia attacks Ukraine with drones and missiles, Ukrainian defenses stand firm
On 29 May, Russian forces unleashed two massive aerial attacks on Ukraine, while Ukrainian defenses managed to intercept most of the incoming kamikaze drones and missiles.

Day 460: May 29

Today Russian forces conducted a massive drone and missile strike.

The first stage of the operation actually began yesterday when Russians conducted a strike exclusively with drones. The primary target of the strike became the capital of Ukraine – Kyiv, coincidentally during the official holiday when Ukrainian celebrate the day of the creation of the city. Many Patriot systems also protect Kyiv, and many Russian sources speculated that the strike’s goal was to identify the position of Ukrainian air defense.

Even though Iranian Shahed combat UAVs do not have cameras, some Russian analysts mentioned that Russian forces recently modified the navigation system of these drones, allowing them to track the drone’s position and change the trajectory in real time. Given that Shahed drones have a range of up to 2500 km, theoretically, it allows the drone to fly in circles above a particular area until it is shot down. And once Russians see that the drone was destroyed, they mark the area above which they lost the connection.

This is a doubtful strategy because Ukrainian forces figured out early on that small arms are the most effective weapon against targets flying at low altitudes. We have already discussed the creation of mobile anti-drone units, however, Ukrainian General Staff reported that the old ZU-23 anti-aircraft gun worked even better. Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian defenders intercepted 58 of 59 Shaheds during that night.

Today at night, Russians conducted the second stage of their operation, where they targeted areas based on the previously gathered information. Earlier, Ukrainian Intelligence noted that Russia started relocating their bombers from the northern bases towards the Caspian Sea, which was a strong indicator that they were preparing to launch missiles and gave Ukrainians some time to prepare.

According to the Ukrainian General Staff, Russians carried out two massive air and missile strikes. Russians reportedly launched 40 Shahed drones from the north and south, 40 cruise missiles from strategic bombers from the Caspian Sea, and 11 Iskander ballistic missiles.

All ballistic missiles targeted Kyiv, and it’s been speculated that they were used as the main weapon for destroying Patriot systems. Russian sources reported that since Iskanders have a ballistic trajectory, the air defense can identify them only at the last minute. However, all Iskanders were successfully shot down. Even though the threat above Kyiv was neutralized, local residents still suffered from the falling debris onto the city. The remnants of Ukrainian and Russian rockets hit the streets and cars and damaged several roofs in the residential area.

Another big target became Odesa. Odesa is one of the main logistical hubs through which Ukrainians receive a lot of supplies from the West, so it has a lot of potential targets and is therefore protected with the best air defense systems available. The footage shows how Patriot rockets are sent into the sky, which is almost immediately followed by explosions of the targets.

According to the updated information, Ukrainian Defense Forces intercepted 36 out of 40 cruise missiles and 30 out of 38 Shahed UAVs. Russian sources reported that they destroyed all command posts, radar posts, warehouses with equipment, ammunition depots, and aviation equipment that they decided to destroy today.

Overall, Ukrainian forces have adapted to the strikes and managed to minimize the premature disclosure of their air defense positions during the primary strikes while also maximizing the protection of the biggest cities and logistical hubs during the decisive strikes. Russian Air Force has gradually given up targeting critical energy infrastructure because the results did not justify the expenditure of missiles. Right now, they are trying to destroy Patriot systems as soon as possible in an effort to prevent the US from sending more of them by showing that their equipment is immediately destroyed. If previously, Russians were conducting massive missile and drone strikes every 2 or 3 weeks, then now they are doing it every two days.

Nonetheless, judging by the available footage, Patriot systems continue destroying Russian cruise, ballistic and hypersonic missiles.

In our daily frontline report, we pair up with the military blogger Reporting from Ukraine to keep you informed about what’s happening on the battlefield in the Russo-Ukrainian war.

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