Russia uses Soviet-era anti-aircraft missiles to hit ground targets

Russian forces are reportedly relying on Soviet-era munitions for certain tasks as the invasion of Ukraine continues.

The Russian government has in recent weeks increasingly ordered its forces in Ukraine to repurpose obsolete anti-aircraft and anti-ship missiles for use on land targets, according to a Tuesday report by iNews.

In Mykolaiv, a city in southern Ukraine, six strikes over the past weekend have been attributed to Russian S-300 missiles, anti-aircraft munitions introduced around 40 years ago with a range of 75 miles . Two Kh-32 missiles, originally designed to sink aircraft carriers, were also credited with the strike on a shopping mall in Kremenchuk that killed 20 people last month. A slightly older version of the same missile was also used to hit an apartment complex in Odessa last week, killing 18 people.

In order to deploy these obsolete weapons on the modern battlefield, the Russian military is said to have equipped them with GPS technology, allowing them to roughly target towns and villages.

Russian forces are increasingly reliant on Soviet-era missiles designed to strike planes and ships to hit ground targets in Ukraine. Above is a photo of pro-Russian forces firing missiles in 2015.
Pierre Crom/Getty Images

“The Soviet Union built up large stocks of ammunition for its chosen weapons systems and the S-300 was replaced by a new, more advanced [surface-to-air] system. There will be a lot of S-300 missiles in the Russian inventory,” said a Western intelligence report, quoted by iNews. “It would make sense from the Kremlin’s perspective to upgrade the S-300s with GPS capability and redeploy them. them in a different role. But the problem is that at the end of the day they remain second-rate precision strike weapons and more innocent people will die from them.”

News of this reliance on repurposed and decades-old weapons bolsters other recent reports that Russian forces are facing materiel shortages as the Ukrainian invasion lasts longer than expected. UK intelligence reports have previously revealed that they have become more dependent on so-called “dumb bombs” as their supplies of guided weapons have dwindled. Unable to be accurately guided, obsolete munitions would have resulted in heavier civilian casualties and collateral damage.

Over the weekend, the Ukrainian government claimed the Russian military was conducting a “silent mobilization” of around 20,000 new soldiers, based on vacancy lists for regional contract positions. The report comes from the Ukrainian Center for Combating Disinformation, which is managed by its National Security and Defense Council. These important recruitment measures would be carried out without Russian officials declaring new mobilizations.

“More than 22,200 vacancies for contract servicemen have appeared in regional employment centers of the Russian Federation,” the center told Telegram.

Newsweek contacted Russian officials for comment.

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