The Ukrainian military has increasingly attacked critical infrastructure in areas close to the Russian border.

Young people remove rubble from a building

Volunteers and students of the kyiv State Academy of Arts clear debris after a rocket attack Photo: dpa

SEDAN taz | In Eastern Europe it promises to be hot in spring and summer. In Ukraine and Russia, the current situation regarding weapons and ammunition will lead both sides in the coming weeks not so much to destroy the enemy on the front, but to destroy the economy of the other country in general and therefore complicate life to the civilian population. or make it unbearable.

Almost every morning, Ukraine's air defense reports on Russian drone strikes, saying that most of them were intercepted, but a significant number hit their targets. This is followed by clarification that some critical infrastructure facilities were damaged, but the number was significantly less than the number of missiles fired. As a result, several rockets also hit military targets, especially near or directly on the front line. The Ukrainian authorities ignore these defeats whenever they can.

Recently, Russian attacks against residential areas in Ukraine with precision-guided bombs were also recorded. The explosion of a 1,500-kilogram aerial bomb in the town of Velyka Pysarivka in the northeastern region of Sumy looked like a small mushroom cloud. Artillery bombardments against border and front-line civilian settlements also occur frequently.

From Syria it is known that Russian President Vladimir Putin can fight even more brutally, for example by deliberately destroying hospitals. In recent months, major attacks have used high-precision weapons to destroy Ukraine's energy infrastructure and weaken its armed forces.

Unpleasant impressions

The biggest response was the massive bombing of the Dnipro hydroelectric plant on March 2, 2024. Commentators did not skimp on historical analogies: the pioneers of the Soviet Red Army had already blown up the plant in 1941, and the German Wehrmacht in 1943.

The Russian attacks on Ukrainian power plants are primarily motivated by an effort to reduce the intensity of Ukrainian attacks on strategic targets in Russia, particularly oil refineries and fuel depots. Time and time again, a highly visible glare and cloud of smoke over Russian oil infrastructure facilities, in addition to obvious economic damage, leave a very unpleasant impression on Putin's subjects, especially potential reservists.

According to the American Institute for the Study of War (ISW), the Russian side is unable to protect a large number of civilian objects from attacks by Ukrainian drones. Therefore, Russia wants to cut off the electricity supply by destroying Ukrainian power plants, factories and workshops that produce these drones.

On December 19, 2023, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Ukraine would produce one million drones next year and that around 200 companies would be involved in their development. The construction of the devices themselves and the programming of the corresponding software is carried out in countless factories, workshops, garages and even in apartments and country houses.

Almost no room for maneuver

Therefore, from Moscow's perspective, it is a waste to use Russian Kinschal missiles, which cost between half a million and a million dollars each, to attack shacks and former computer gaming clubs. Therefore, it makes much more sense to deprive these shacks and basements of light and electricity.

The Ukrainian side does not have much room for maneuver when it comes to using these weapons, as the Russian military is clearly superior in electronic warfare and is at least still able to protect most of its key military facilities from drone attacks.

Of course, Ukrainian generals would prefer to shoot drones not at gas stations, but directly at the heads of those bombing Ukrainian cities or at soldiers in trenches. But they want to avoid failure, so they attack targets that are less protected.

During the two years of war, Ukrainians have asked the West not primarily to supply them with drones, but with aircraft and long-range weapons with launchers. In the US and the EU, one of the main arguments against the supply of this “deadly metal” was the fear of an escalation of the conflict, that is, a transfer of the war to Russian territory.

Fears of escalation

This equipment and ammunition was not available in sufficient quantities, and this was one of the reasons why the important Ukrainian counteroffensive last summer failed. Now the Russian invader can successfully attack other cities and towns in Ukraine and thus provoke a new flow of refugees.

Western fears of escalation have led precisely to large-scale escalation, that is, to economic war through mutual attacks on energy infrastructure and associated environmental disasters in an already difficult situation in terms of air temperatures and fires.

A new type of Russian refugees is emerging, leaving their place of residence not because of political disagreements with the authorities or fear of mobilization, but because of the war. It is not excluded that the evacuation of 9,000 children from the Belgorod region, near the border, due to shelling by Ukrainian forces, could be the first sign of this phenomenon.

Of course, the Russian side also defends civilian objects, especially the capital, from drones. According to a foreign diplomat in Moscow, sometimes electronic warfare means you have to go back to the 20th century to get to a meeting on time. This means using an assistant with a city map in hand, as modern navigation technology reroutes the car.

No primitive revenge

But Russian resources are not enough to protect the provinces. Selenskyj recently announced in an interview with the Washington Post, that the tactic of burning Russian oil was correct. “If there is no air defense to protect our power grid and the Russians attack it, I ask: why can't we give them an answer? Your society must learn to live without gasoline, without diesel, without electricity […] This is fair. If Russia stops it, we will stop it too.”

Obviously, this is not about primitive revenge or forcing Putin not to destroy Ukrainian power plants. Rather, it is another desperate attempt to unleash a wave of discontent in the enemy camp. It is important to demonstrate that Ukraine's will to fight is unbreakable and that the coming months will not be a walk in the park for the Russian military in Ukraine. Ukraine, which is still free, no longer has many other options.

Translated from Russian by Barbara Oertel

30776 74941 49251 62275 31674 28186 29145 92304 79815 34762 06989 35270 13255 09477 79011 01932 68983 16713 21647 47519