by Lucas Webber
Monday, 9
January 2023
Analysis
07:00

The war in Ukraine is spilling into Russia

Ukrainian forces are making moves into Russian territory
by Lucas Webber
Ukrainian mortar unit servicemen in the Donbas last month. Credit: Getty.

In recent days, Russian air defences have been struggling to cope with Ukrainian drones entering the country’s airspace. On 3rd January, videos emerged of AD systems firing at objects over the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don and explosions were reported above Kursk. The incidents occurred shortly after Ukrainian forces directed multiple-launch rocket systems at Belgorod. These are more signs that the arena for the Ukraine war is becoming ever broader.

Early last month, Ukrainian drones attacked Engels airbase deep inside Russian territory. This particular operation was reportedly carried out in coordination with a military reconnaissance unit, damaging two planes, killing three Russian servicemen, and wounding four others. Satellite imagery later confirmed the strikes and detected the presence of emergency response vehicles at the impacted locations.


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Engels was hit once more in late December. However, the Russian defence ministry deemed it unsuccessful, and there was no official claim issued by the Ukrainian government. Tu-95 Bears and Tu-160 Blackjack bombers were apparently among the aircraft present at the time of the attempts, and some assessments suggest the attacks have prompted Russia to reduce offensive activity launched from the airbase.

Over land, Ukraine has sent reconnaissance and sabotage personnel to make incursions into Russia to disrupt railways, find targets, and conduct other forms of covert action. A four-man team was recently intercepted in the Bryansk region around the time of the second set of drone attacks, and was subsequently eliminated by FSB forces. Shortly after, Moscow asserted the alleged “saboteurs” were in possession of improvised explosive devices and foreign-made weapons.

In a recent interview, Ukraine’s military intelligence leader, Kyrylo Budanov, was asked about the 26th December operation against Engels, replying that he was “glad to see it” and anticipating that such attacks would continuously take place “deeper and deeper” into Russian territory over time.

Previously, Ukraine has been shelling cross-border targets and sabotaging rail infrastructure, and according to US officials was believed to be involved in the assassination of Darya Dugin, the daughter of prominent Russian intellectual Aleksandr Dugin.

These types of operations have likewise been taking place inside Russian-occupied Ukrainian territories. Ukrainian forces, for instance, have inflicted significant damage on the Kerch Strait Bridge, killing “collaborators” in Russian-occupied territories, and have been locating military targets behind enemy lines.

In addition to covert Ukrainian activities, Moscow is facing anti-war dissent domestically. One movement notably gaining traction since the invasion began has been the Russian Anarcho-Communist Combat Organization (БОАК/BOAK), which has targeted rail infrastructure and firebombed recruitment offices. It is unclear whether Kyiv supports these elements in any direct way, but the group’s actions undoubtedly benefit the Ukrainian resistance and irritate the Kremlin.

As Moscow moves towards escalating the conflict, Ukraine is likely to continue carrying out sabotage activities and striking deep inside Russian territory. Through this approach, the hope is that the country will reduce the level of airpower and military capacity its adversary is able to muster in the coming weeks and months. As the war’s one-year anniversary approaches, this conflict is showing no sign of going away.

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Mike Doyle
Mike Doyle
24 days ago

To quote Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris, “The Nazis entered this war under the rather childish delusion that they were going to bomb everybody else and nobody was going to bomb them.”
plus ça change

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
24 days ago
Reply to  Mike Doyle

And I expect it’s pretty easy for Ukrainian ‘little green men’ fluent in Russian and very familiar with Russian customs and processes to be infiltrated into Russia.

I have wondered why we haven’t seen more ‘actions’ by Ukrainians behind enemy lines in Russia, and presumed it was because the Ukrainians felt it would be seen in the West as an escalation. Maybe we’re there now.

martin logan
martin logan
24 days ago

Increased blows by Ukraine are the only path to peace. Any talk of coherent negotiations is far too late.
The reason is because Russia is rapidly evolving away from Putin’s pathtetic delusions straight into Prigozhin’s psychotic way of war.
Putin is a man of very limited intelligence and education, who totally misread Russia, the EU, the US and the world. He can’t win the war because, to do so, would require him to fire incompetents like Gerasimov, Surovikin and Shoigu.
But competent commanders are also an existential threat to his regime. As Stalin knew, they will always be a threat, and Putin lacks a Party and an NKVD/KGB to keep them in line. It took Stalin years to create those organs, and years more to frighten the population into compliance.
It’s far too late. Putin and his entire regime are now a spent force.
His only coherent military alternative is to let Prigozhin take charge. The latter knows zero about conducting military operations–except to keep attacking in the same place, always hoping for a different result. He will keep doing this with what’s left of the 300,000 “mobiks,” and then start all over with the new batch of 500,000 about to be called up.
And the totally discredited Russian officer corps can do nothing to stop him.
So, as Putin fades into the nothingness from whence he came, expect ever more Russian frontal attacks. They won’t succeed, and make no sense.
But has anything in Moscow’s 800-year history ever really made any sense?

Last edited 24 days ago by Martin Logan
Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
24 days ago

Putin and his circle clearly don’t care about the death and destruction visited by this “special operation” on the Russian military and conscripts. Is it not time the Ukrainians began to target someone that Putin does care about? Had Stauffenberg ensured his case remained the right side of the table leg many might have been spared through the shortening of the war. A classic illustration of the supposed moral dilemma about diverting a runaway truck from its pathway that will kill many to killing just one. A surgeon cuts out the cancer he doesn’t take random stabs over the whole body.

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
24 days ago

I support Ukraine – but I am a bit nervous that Russia has the world’s largest nuclear arsenal and is headed by an increasingly out of touch megalomaniac. Putin has publicly stated that he considers himself to be fighting all of NATO – and there is some truth to that. I would be worried for Ukraine – and frankly for all of us – if Ukraine pushed very far across traditional Russian borders.

Last edited 24 days ago by Gunner Myrtle
Iris C
Iris C
24 days ago

I am appalled by this, which was News to me.
Do the Americans really want to start a war in Europe by sending lethal weapons to Ukraine to attack Russia directly? And why are the European countries, including Britain, sitting back and allowing this to happen?
It is time the EU took the initiative and made the decisions – not far-away America – in order to prevent a catastrophic escalation .

Phillip Arundel
Phillip Arundel
24 days ago
Reply to  Iris C

Bomber Harris is mentioned by the poster above. The bombing began to escalate almost immediately in WWII, once begun, limited only by the amount of aircraft; till later in the war the infamous 1000 Bomber raids began – terrible things as they also used incendiaries with the high explosives, and thus created firestorms over so big an area there was no escape, and of unbelievable inhumanity.

What is amazing is before those, even the endless, daily – or nightly, bombing raids really did very little good – more a nuisance, more a Political weapon. They did not have any precision bombs though, and the USA ones, with real time USA intelligence, are said to be accurate to 3 ft..

But yes, this is very much an existential escalation of extreme importance. Thus far the proxy war USA and UK have been fighting with Russia has been with the Western weapons used ‘Defensively’ within Ukraine. Now they are being used outside, one assumes with American intelligence, and in Russia ‘Offensively’ a line in the sand may well have been crossed.

These lines – and we know many others on this slippery slope, are scary, really big deals. We should have official reasons given for justification, goals, exit stratify, and then, who will clean up the mess – And Pay for it (‘you broke it, you bought it’).

ALSO – what mitigation is being planned to prevent a billion starving in the sanctions and war stopping 1/3 of the global fertilizer being produced, wheat, food oils, not planted or shipped – and the costs of ag and transport fuel and foods being inflated by this war for the poor nations to not afford, and the Russia/Ukrainian production of so many Vital mineral and metals the globe needs to function being curtailed.

This is an evil war, we need Peace at all costs, the World needs it. The entire world is at the brink of disaster from the secondary consequences.

Paul Williams
Paul Williams
24 days ago

It’s not a proxy war, Russia invaded Ukraine, the Ukrainians are fighting back.

martin logan
martin logan
24 days ago

Er, nice to weep oceans of tears about Putin’s invasion. Even better that you offer no coherent diplomatic solution.
But the only reason that grain, oil and fertilizer can’t reach the third world is because of Putin and the Black Sea Fleet.
No Black Sea Fleet, no problem.
No Putin, no problem.
Not rocket science…
But agreed, better to have a good cry than solve the problem.

Last edited 24 days ago by Martin Logan
chris sullivan
chris sullivan
24 days ago
Reply to  martin logan

Tis seriously annoying that the Russians bomb the crap out of Ukraine at will – but should the Ukrainians DARE to make the odd little advance into Russia the whole world craps its nappies !! Due to the nuclear threat – all this after Ukraine ‘gave up’ its nukes to Bully boy Russia. It is time that the ‘west’ made some very firm statements about continuing nuke threats from Russia !! After all we have testicular antecedents from Cuba 1962. eg “we, the west will not play this nuke threat game any longer – ALL our nukes are trained on every military establishment in Russia and our satellites on every nuke silo – do not threaten Europe !!!!!!
Yeah I know blah blah……..BUT it does seem that we are back living in primitive times – evil flourish, good men sitting on hands etc etc Primitive times ned primitive solutions ??? Trump is an asshole BUT would Putin have carried out this atrocity ?? A primitive trump for a primitive Putin would have equalled neat symmetry and no invasion of Ukraine…..

martin logan
martin logan
24 days ago
Reply to  Iris C

“Do the Americans really want to start a war in Europe?”
Er, it would seem that Putin beat them to the punch about 11 months ago.
Guess your mail feed is a mite slow…

Andy E
Andy E
24 days ago

I think two events, both of them involving deliberate death of civilians – murder of Ms Dugina (terrorist act for certain) and attempt to destroy the Crimea bridge (the target is legit, but performance smells terrorist) – change Moscow perception on possible negotiation process.
Although Kremlin keeps saying it’s open for dialog it seems the play is to keep making it unacceptable for Ukrainians. The rapid formal integration of the Ukrainian regions might be an instrument for exactly this, making sure Kiev authorities have to say “no” to third-party attempts to a cease fire.
With a solid chance of winning the war within a few next months Moscow probably does not want any deviation from its plan but wants to appear ready for good stuff.
It might be getting too late for the West leaders to jump the wagon and save its face. Prospect of losing with Ukraine is a bit worse than getting Nobel peace price for “saving the world from WWIII”.

Last edited 24 days ago by Andy E
Andy E
Andy E
24 days ago
Reply to  Andy E

Oh I am flattered to get such attention from the donw-voting bots. What puzzles me — are those Ukrainian bots or Russian? lol

martin logan
martin logan
24 days ago
Reply to  Andy E

Now that Putin has cleverly lost Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and half of Kherson, he’s drawn the poor Ukrainians into his trap. His latest triumph at Makiivka was expressly designed to lull them into a false sense of security.
Watch as he makes his great breakthrough at…Bakhmut.
NOBODY expects the Bakhmut breakthrough! (psst, don’t tell anyone!)
Putin remains the Master Strategist of the 21st Century.

Last edited 24 days ago by Martin Logan
Wim de Vriend
Wim de Vriend
24 days ago
Reply to  martin logan

Great response to an apparent Russian collaborator.

Andy E
Andy E
22 days ago
Reply to  Wim de Vriend

if you are willing to go as low and unintelligent as labeling — I would rather be labeled that than a N**i collaborator or delusional idiot. Enjoy!

John Dewhirst
John Dewhirst
11 days ago
Reply to  Andy E

If you are so sensitive and get upset about people disagreeing with your views then don’t bother posting. Simples.