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Crimea Strike Suggests ‘Systemic Failures’ of Russian Air Defense: ISW

Ukraine’s successful attack on a Russian surface-to-air missile system in Crimea may be a sign that Moscow is experiencing “systemic tactical failures” within its defense meshwork in the region, reported the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

The Armed Forces of Ukraine said Thursday that its troops had successfully struck a Russian S-400 “Triumf” system near the city of Yevpatoria—roughly 42 miles northwest of Sevastopol, where Kyiv carried out an airstrike against Russia’s Black Sea Fleet earlier this week. According to a report from Ukrainian media outlet Ukrayinska Pravda, Kyiv struck the missile system’s radars and antennas using drones, and two Neptune cruise missiles were used to wallop the S-400’s launch complexes.

Thursday’s attack was the second time in recent weeks that Ukraine took down one of Russia’s air defense networks in Crimea. Kyiv also attacked an S-400 missile system at Cape Tarkhankut, near the city of Oleniyka, on August 23.

Crimea Strike Suggests 'Systemic Failures' for Russia
A Russian S-400 Triumph missile system is driven during the Victory Day Red Square Parade on May 9, 2023, in Moscow. Ukraine on Thursday announced that it had successfully struck an S-400 stationed in Crimea.
Contributor/Getty Images

The ISW noted in its latest assessment on the war in Ukraine that geolocated footage published to X, formerly Twitter, captured an explosion near the area where a Russian S-400 system had recently been deployed in Yevpatoria, as well as “subsequent smoke plumes” coming from the site of the explosion.

The Russian Ministry of Defense said on its Telegram channel that its air defense systems had intercepted 11 Ukrainian missiles over the Crimean Peninsula on Thursday, but did not acknowledge any strikes in the region.

“The strike suggests that Russian forces were unprepared to intercept missiles with the system or were unable to do so,” the ISW wrote in its assessment.

“Ukrainian forces struck a Russian S-400 air defense system near Olenivka, Crimea … on August 23, and the second Ukrainian strike on a significant Russian air defense system in recent weeks indicates that such tactical failures may reflect a wider systemic issue with Russian air defenses in occupied Crimea,” the think tank added.

Attacks along the Crimean Peninsula have become more frequent in recent months during Ukraine’s counteroffensive to reclaim Russian-occupied territory. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has also vowed that the war cannot end unless Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014, is returned to Kyiv.

The Black Sea peninsula has served as Moscow’s logistics hub for its troops stationed in southern Ukraine. But recent attacks—including the missile strikes earlier this week that took out part of Russia’s naval fleet and led to the closure of the strategic Kerch Strait Bridge—present new strategic challenges for the Kremlin.

Newsweek has reached out to the Russian Defense Ministry via email Thursday night for comment.