News Ukraine getting better at defending against Russian drones: live updates

Credit…Laura Boushnak for The New York Times

Ukraine shot down all of Russia’s exploding drones launched over New Year’s Eve, a spokesman for the Air Force said on Tuesday, in a measure of the country’s growing ability to resist Moscow’s efforts to disable its energy infrastructure.

“A result like this has never been achieved before,” spokesman Yurii Ihnat said on Ukrainian television, referring to the nights of Dec. 31 and Jan. 1.

On Monday, Russia launched the latest batch of Iranian-made weapons, nicknamed “flying motorcycles” for their relatively slow speed, at targets inside Ukraine. It was a rare shutdown with no one reaching their destination due to anti-aircraft artillery, surface-to-air missiles and warplanes. Twenty drones were shot down over Kyiv alone.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his military began the new year resolutely resisting an unmanned attack from above.

“Only two days into the beginning of the year, the number of Iranian drones shot down over Ukraine has surpassed 80,” Mr. Zelensky said in his evening remarks on Monday night.

In October, about a month after Russia began deploying Shahed drones, an adviser to Ukraine’s defense minister said they had shot down more than 70 percent of them.

As winter hits, the ground war in Ukraine has turned into a war of attrition, and the focus has shifted to air battles in major cities such as Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine.

Russia has launched wave after wave of drone and cruise missile strikes aimed at cutting off power and water supplies to civilians, sometimes leaving as much as 25 percent of the country without power. Monday’s drone attack was the latest in a string of year-end attacks, including one that killed three civilians on New Year’s Eve.

Credit…Laura Boushnak for The New York Times

Given that Ukraine’s defenses are more costly than Russia’s airstrike methods, some military experts worry that the imbalance could increasingly favor Russia over time. In his Monday evening speech, Zelensky said his administration had intelligence that Russia’s attacks using Shaheds showed no signs of ending.

“We have information that Russia is planning a long-term attack on the Shaheds,” he said, according to a transcript released by his office. The system, our energy sector is exhausted.”

But with each attack, the Ukrainian military has become increasingly adept at taking down drones before they hit their targets, giving Ukraine what Mr Zelensky called “small victories against terrorists and terrorist activities”. .

“Every drone shot down, every missile shot down, powering our people every day and the fewest blackout schedules is such a victory,” he said.

One reason for the success of the drone operation may have been the U.S. decision in early November to provide Ukraine with an advanced surface-to-air missile system, known as NASAMS. It includes radars, sensors, launchers and a mobile command center.

U.S. missile systems played a role in Monday’s attack, according to the Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security, a Ukrainian government agency.

“Despite only learning to operate them a few weeks ago, our military uses them almost like cannons, reloading as quickly as possible,” the center said on Twitter. “The successful use of these weapons demonstrates that our soldiers learn quickly.”

Meek Mulroy, a former senior Pentagon official and retired CIA officer, said the training has helped Ukraine’s military get better at managing sophisticated weapons.

Russia, on the other hand, appears to be giving up on the idea of ​​winning wars through traditional land warfare, at least in the near future, he said.

“It appears their retreat is only to blow the country to pieces,” he said. “You can’t win wars with air strikes.”

victoria king with Matthew M’pok Bigger Contribution report.

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