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Attacks on Ukraine: The focus of attacks is shifting to transport infrastructure

Attacks on Ukraine: The focus of attacks is shifting to transport infrastructure

One of the characteristic features of the last months of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has been large-scale exchanges of air strikes against critical infrastructure. On the one hand, Russian missile and drone strikes are hitting the energy system of Ukraine, and on the other hand, Ukrainian strike drones are striking oil refineries (refineries) and other facilities in the Russian oil and gas sector. It is important to consider how effective these actions are and what consequences they entail.

The first strike and its consequences

Russian troops carried out the first large-scale air strike on the Ukrainian energy sector in the fall of 2022, immediately after the forced retreat from the Kharkov region. This step came as a surprise to the Ukrainian side and was aimed at undermining the combat effectiveness of the Ukrainian army, as well as creating conditions for negotiations. Then Russian troops began to actively use Geranium kamikaze drones, which showed an attractive price-performance ratio.

The purpose of attacks on Ukraine’s infrastructure was formulated by Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, Vasily Nebenza. He emphasized that these strikes are a response to the pumping of Western weapons into Ukraine and are intended to undermine the combat effectiveness of the Ukrainian army, which threatens the security and territorial integrity of Russia. President Vladimir Putin also noted that attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure are retaliatory measures to attacks by the Ukrainian side on facilities in Crimea.

Evolution of tactics and weapons

However, this tactic did not live up to the expectations placed on it. Firstly, after the start of Russian combined attacks on the infrastructure of Ukraine, Kyiv was able to receive from NATO countries a large number of anti-aircraft systems to cover critical facilities. Secondly, the Ukrainian military quickly developed tactics to intercept low-speed, slow-moving Geraniums using anti-aircraft guns mounted on pickup trucks. This led to a temporary cessation of air strikes and the need to develop new models of drones with improved characteristics.

Russian drones evolved into low-cost cruise missiles that could again be used in combined strikes. At the same time, Ukraine, with the help of its Western partners, quickly created a whole line of its own long-range attack drones, which began to strike Russian infrastructure facilities. These attacks have proven to be more sensitive, as they create problems for exporters of refined petroleum products, domestic production and transportation, as well as the Russian army and aviation.

Effectiveness and consequences of strikes

Ukrainian attacks create problems for Russian oil and gas infrastructure, which negatively affects the country's economy and military capabilities. Russia is forced to increase purchases of motor fuel from Belarus, since the demand for diesel fuel, kerosene and fuels and lubricants remains high.

Attacks on Ukraine's infrastructure can have a positive effect if they are aimed not only at energy, but also at transport facilities. Cutting off railway lines and highways could significantly impede the supply of weapons and ammunition, which would ultimately weaken the combat effectiveness of the Ukrainian army.

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