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ISW: Russia employing fewer glide bombs due to worries about Ukrainian air defenses

In the last few days, Russia lost five bombers in southern Ukraine.
ISW: Russia employing fewer glide bombs due to worries about Ukrainian air defenses
Ukrainian fighter jets. Photo: Ukrainian Air Forces via Telegram

Russian forces cut back on glide bomb usage in southern Ukraine, indicating growing concerns about improved Ukrainian air defenses. This adjustment follows the loss of 5 bombers, revealing reduced confidence in operating without losses in Ukrainian-controlled airspace, according to the daily report from the American Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

On Christmas Eve, Ukrainian forces downed two Russian fighter jets, Su-34 and Su-30. Earlier, on 22 December, Ukrainian forces claimed three Su-34s downed on the southern front. The method remains unknown, but experts suggest it might involve the American Patriot air defense system.

Post these losses, Russian glide bomb attacks in Kherson Oblast notably decreased. Russian forces shifted to more strike drones and less aviation in the Kupiansk and Bakhmut directions.

The sustained reduction in Russian glide bomb strikes in Kherson Oblast could offer Ukrainian forces an opportunity for freer operations on the west bank of the Dnipro River and a more secure position on the east bank for future endeavors if the Ukrainian high command chooses ISW notes. 

Other takeaways from the ISW report:

  • Russia is reinforcing its military presence in Ukraine, establishing a separate occupation force through the deployment of Rosgvardia units. The three newly formed regiments of Rosgvardia’s 116th Special Purpose Brigade have been deployed to occupied Donetsk Oblast, involving the likely movement of up to 6,000 troops from Russia. This move is likely aimed at hindering Ukraine’s counteroffensive efforts, establishing permanent control over occupied regions, and suppressing partisan activity without tying frontline troops to occupation duties.
  • The Russian Black Sea Fleet’s 810th Naval Infantry Brigade edited its acknowledgment of using chemical weapons in Ukraine, potentially to conceal evidence of a violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention. On 22 December, the brigade stated on its Telegram channel a ‘radical change in tactics’ involving dropping K-51 grenades from drones onto Ukrainian positions in Krynky, located on the eastern bank of Dnipro river in Kherson Oblast. These grenades contain CS gas, prohibited under the Chemical Weapons Convention as a method of warfare. The brigade removed the specific mention of the K-51 grenade.
  • EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrelll, asserts that Russian President Vladimir Putin is not pursuing a limited territorial victory in Ukraine but intends to continue the war until achieving a ‘final victory.’ This aligns with ISW’s assessment that Russia is not seeking a ceasefire or genuine negotiations but maintains maximalist goals for a complete victory in Ukraine.

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