Ukrainian officials said On Wednesday Russia used “Shahed-136 type” drones to target the town of Bila Tserkva, just 50 miles south of Kyiv, injuring one person and destroying several buildings.
Ukraine has been sounding the alarm over Russia’s growing use of drones, which it says are supplied by Tehran, to strike towns far behind the front lines for weeks, but the attack on Wednesday is the closest to the country’s capital and poses a new challenge to the Ukrainian military.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense first reported the use of what it called the Shahed-136 drone last month during its dazzling counter-offensive in the northeast of the country.
Since then, the command of the Ukrainian Air Force reported that Shahed-136 drones were used for launch attacks on the southern cities of Odessa and Mykolaiv. After Bila Tserkva’s attack on Wednesday, the ministry reported tear down nine other drones in the south of the country. He shared an image of the wreckage of the drone, which appears to have Russian writing on it. NBC News was unable to verify whether the drone in the image was indeed a Shahed-136 or any other drone produced in Iran.
Military experts say it is difficult to say for sure if the drones in the images provided by Ukraine are in fact Shahed-136. But the drone’s wingtip and overall shape match those seen in available videos of Iranian military exercises, said Michael A. Horowitz, a geopolitics and security analyst and chief intelligence officer at the firm. consulting firm Le Beck..
“It’s not conclusive proof, but it’s as close as you can get from an open source perspective,” he said.
The drone, which has earned the nickname “suicide bomber” for destroying its target by physically crashing into it, can be fitted with a small warhead, making it an effective precision weapon, said expert Christopher Tuck. Conflict and Security at King’s College London. .
Its operational range is up for debate among analysts, he said, but could be as high as 1,200 miles, though likely much shorter in practice.
“It’s still enough to hit any target in Ukraine from Russian-occupied areas,” Tuck said.
Washington and Kyiv have accused Tehran of supplying the drones to Moscow for use in Ukraine, but Iran has refuse the accusations.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran considers the published information about the delivery of drones to Russia for use in the war in Ukraine to be baseless and does not confirm it,” its Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Tuesday. .
The Kremlin has not commented on the recent use of Iranian-made drones in Ukraine, but its spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, has previously called speculation that Iran is supplying drones to Russia for a “hoax”. use in Ukraine.
The increase in drone attacks comes as Russian forces are on the retirement in UkraineMoscow struggling to support President Vladimir Putin’s flagging military campaign.
Several analysts told NBC News that it makes sense for Russia to use this type of drone in Ukraine to improve its capability for precise medium-range strikes because it lacks more conventional precision-guided munitions, and Ukraine will need more anti-aircraft systems and aircraft. to effectively counter drones.
“This is a new threat for all defense forces (of Ukraine), and we must use all available means to try to counter it,” the army spokesman said. Ukrainian air, Yuriy Ihnat, after Bila Tserkva’s attack on Wednesday.
But while drones are a challenge for Ukraine, they’re not a game-changer, Tuck said.
As single-use weapons, they can wear out very quickly, he added. They are also low-tech, have reliability issues, and are open to effective countermeasures, including jamming.
“At the same time, drones are forced to substitute for other capabilities, including precision artillery strike, which Russia lacks,” Tuck said. “Basically, they are a band-aid solution to a deeper Russian military weakness.”