December 10, 2022

Institute for the Study of War: Russia attacks infrastructure in southern Ukraine using Iranian drones

Institute for the Study of War

An unnamed US defense source told The Times that the Pentagon is no longer insisting that Ukraine should not strike military targets within Russia.[1] The source noted that the Pentagon has changed its perspective on this matter following the recent intensification of Russian missile strikes on Ukrainian civilian infrastructure over the last few months and that the Pentagon has become less concerned regarding the risk of escalation, including nuclear escalation, with Russia.[2] The Times suggested that this development is a “green light” for Ukrainian drone strikes on Russian territory.[3] Ukrainian commitments to Western partners previously stipulated that Ukraine had the right to use force to regain all its territory, including territory seized by Russia in 2014.[4] The US has previously not made an effort to prevent Ukraine from striking legitimate military targets located on sovereign Ukrainian territory, and the alleged statement made by the undisclosed US source is an extension of the previous policy. International law allows Ukrainian forces to strike legitimate targets even in Russian territory, especially targets from which Russian forces are launching attacks on Ukrainian civilian infrastructure.

Russian forces conducted attacks against critical infrastructure targets in southern Ukraine using a significantly higher number of Iranian-made drones than in previous weeks. Ukrainian Air Force Command reported on December 10 that Russian forces conducted 15 attacks with Shahed-136 and 131 drones in Kherson, Mykolaiv, and Odesa oblasts and that Ukrainian air defenses shot down 10 of the drones.[5] Ukrainian Presidential Office Deputy Head Kyrylo Tymoshenko stated that one of the successful Russian drone strikes severely impacted critical infrastructure facilities in Odesa City and that restoration efforts would take longer than usual.[6] ISW previously assessed that Russian forces still pose a threat to the Ukrainian energy grid and civilian population despite Ukrainian air defenses’ high rates of shooting down Russian high-precision weapons systems.[7] ISW also previously assessed that Russian forces likely modified the drones for cooler weather and resumed using Iranian-made drones to strike Ukrainian cities for the first time in three weeks on December 7.[8] Russian forces have not used a higher number of Iranian-made drones in attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure since October 23.[9] The increased pace of Russian attacks using Iranian-made drones follows a December 9 NBC News report that senior US officials stated that Russia is providing an unprecedented level of military and technical support to Iran in exchange for Iranian-made weapons systems, including drones.[10] The increased pace of Russian drone attacks may indicate that Russian forces accumulated more drones over the three-week period of not using them or that Russia has recently received or expects soon to receive a new shipment of drones from Iran.

Key Takeaways

  • The Times reported that an unnamed US Defense source stated that the Pentagon is no longer insisting that Ukraine refrain from striking military targets in Russia given the ongoing Russian campaign of systematically destroying Ukrainian critical infrastructure.
  • Russian forces conducted attacks against Ukrainian infrastructure using a higher number of Iranian-made drones than in previous weeks.
  • Putin risks losing support from proxy leaders in Donetsk Oblast due to Russian forces’ failure to push Ukrainian forces out of artillery range of Donetsk City.
  • Russian authorities are increasingly importing Chechen officials and forces to man administrative regimes of occupied areas.
  • Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations toward Svatove, and Russian and Ukrainian forces conducted ground attacks near Kreminna.
  • Russian forces continued attempts to advance toward Bakhmut and in the Avdiivka-Donetsk City area and to defend their positions in western Donetsk Oblast.
  • Russian authorities plan to launch programs in Russia and occupied Ukrainian territories to prepare children for military service.
  • Russian forces in occupied Donetsk Oblast are reportedly commandeering civilian utility equipment to construct defensive structures.

(For full report: )

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