January 8, 2024

Institute for the Study of War:  Another Russian missile and drone barrage against Ukraine

Institute for the Study of War

Ukrainian officials highlighted the need for more air defense systems after another large series of Russian missile and drone strikes against Ukraine on the night of January 7 to 8. Ukrainian military officials reported that Russian forces launched a total of 59 missiles and drones against Ukraine including: eight Shahed-136/-131 drones; seven S-300/400 missiles; four Kh-47M2 Kinzhal hypersonic missiles; 24 Kh-101/555/55 and eight Kh-22 cruise missiles; six Iskander-M ballistic missiles; and two Kh-31P air guided missiles. Ukrainian military officials reported that the Russian strikes targeted critical and civilian infrastructure, and military facilities in Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhia, and Khmelnytskyi oblasts and that Ukrainian forces downed all eight Shaheds and 18 Kh-101/555/55 cruise missiles. Ukrainian Air Force Spokesperson Colonel Yuriy Ihnat reported that the percentage of Russian air targets that Ukrainian forces shot down on the night of January 7 to 8 did not change in comparison to previous, more intense Russian strikes, but that Ukraine needs to intercept more Russian missiles and drones given the large number of such systems that Russia regularly launches. Ihnat stated that only “specific means,” such as Patriot air defense systems, can down ballistic missiles and that Ukrainian forces have yet to down a Kh-22 cruise missile. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated in a virtual address to Sweden’s annual national Society and Defense Conference on January 8 that Ukraine needs to strengthen its air defense capabilities at the front to better protect Ukrainian positions against Russian strikes and in the rear to protect civilians. Zelensky stated that Ukrainian forces have intercepted over 70 percent of the over 500 Russian missiles and drones launched over the past “several days” thanks to air defenses systems from Western partners but that this current interception rate is insufficient. Zelensky stated that Russian forces will lose their power on the battlefield if Russian forces lose air superiority.

Western provisions of air defense systems and missiles remains crucial for Ukraine as Russian forces attempt to adapt to current Ukrainian air defense capabilities and as Ukraine develops its defense industrial base (DIB). ISW assessed that Russian and Ukrainian forces are currently engaged in a tactical and technological offensive-defense race wherein both sides are constantly experimenting and adapting their long-range strikes and air defenses. The continued and increased Western provision of air defense systems and missiles to Ukraine is crucial as Russian forces continue to experiment with new ways to penetrate Ukrainian air defenses. The inclusion of Western-provided air defense systems into Ukraine’s air defense umbrella has been essential to Ukraine’s ability to defend against Russian missiles, particularly ballistic missiles. Western air defense systems and air defense missile provisions to Ukraine in the near- and medium-term are also essential to protecting Ukraine’s growing DIB as Russian forces continue to target Ukrainian industrial facilities. US State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller called the provision of US aid to Ukraine “critical” on January 4 because Ukraine is not yet able to defend itself but noted that US aid will not need to continue at previous levels because Ukraine is working to expand its DIB to “stand on its own feet.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Ukrainian officials highlighted the need for more air defense systems after another large series of Russian missile and drone strikes against Ukraine on the night of January 7 to 8.
  • Western provisions of air defense systems and missiles remains crucial for Ukraine as Russian forces attempt to adapt to current Ukrainian air defense capabilities and as Ukraine develops its defense industrial base (DIB).
  • Ukrainian forces are adapting to battlefield difficulties from equipment shortages but are struggling to completely compensate for artillery ammunition shortages and insufficient electronic warfare (EW) capabilities.
  • Russian authorities are reportedly illegally deporting Ukrainian civilians to Russia and holding them in penal colonies and pre-trial detention centers without charges, investigations, trials, access to lawyers, or designated release dates.
  • A Russian insider source claimed that Russian officials dismissed First Deputy Head of the Main Directorate of the Russian General Staff (GRU), Lieutenant General Vladimir Alekseyev, who was reportedly in charge of the Russian “Volunteer Corps” that was intended to replace the Wagner Group.
  • ISW cannot confirm either Alekseyev’s dismissal in fall 2023 or the reports of shell shortages disproportionately affecting the Russian “Volunteer Corps.”
  • Russian authorities continue efforts to consolidate control over the Russian information space ahead of the March presidential elections.
  • Russian opposition outlet Verstka reported on January 8 that recent polling shows decreased domestic support for Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine ahead of the March 2024 Russian presidential elections.
  • Russian government and media officials recently have died, possibly under mysterious circumstances.
  • A Russian state media outlet confirmed that the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) detained three officers of its Directorate “M” in connection with a high-profile bribery scheme.
  • Russian forces recently made confirmed advances near Donetsk City and Verbove, and positional engagements continued along the entire line of contact.
  • The Ukrainian Resistance Center reported on January 8 that there are more than 450,000 Russian military personnel in Ukraine as of December 2023.
  • Russia continues to forcibly deport children from occupied Ukraine under the guise of vacations

For full report:  https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-january-8-2024 

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