November 25, 2023

Institute for the Study of War: Russia launches biggest drone strike against Ukraine since the invasion

Institute for the Study of War

Russian forces launched the largest drone strike against Ukraine since the start of the full-scale invasion overnight on November 24 to 25 using a new modification of the Iranian Shahed 131/136 drones. Ukrainian military officials reported that Russian forces launched 75 Shahed drones that mainly targeted Kyiv City from the southeast (Primorsko-Akhtarsk) and northeast (Kursk Oblast) and that Ukrainian forces shot down 74 drones. Ukrainian military officials also reported that Ukrainian forces shot down a Russian Kh-59 cruise missile over Dnipropetrovsk Oblast and that air defenses activated in at least six regions, including Kyiv, Sumy, Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhia, Mykolaiv, and Kirovohrad oblasts. Ukrainian Air Force officials stated that mobile fire groups enabled Ukrainian forces to shoot down a significant number of drones. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky observed that Russian forces launched the drone attack on the Ukrainian remembrance day of the 1932-1933 Holodomor man-made famine.

Ukrainian Air Force Spokesperson Colonel Yuriy Ihnat reported that Russian forces attacked Kyiv with a new modification of Shahed drones and noted that these drones were black in color and contained a material that absorbs radar signals, making them more difficult to detect. Russian milbloggers similarly claimed that Russian forces used “black Geran” or “Feran” (the Russian name for Shaheds) drones for the first time and claimed that these drones are more challenging to detect in the night sky. Iranian media published footage on November 19 showing the Iranian Ashura Aerospace University of Science and Technology presenting the new Shahed-238 jet-powered modification of the Shahed-136 drone. The presented Shahed-238 appeared to be black in color, but it is unknown if Russian forces used the Shahed-238 modification during the November 25 strike.

Key Takeaways:

  • Russian forces launched the largest drone strike against Ukraine since the start of the full-scale invasion overnight on November 24 to 25 using a new modification of the Iranian Shahed 131/136 drones.
  • Ukrainian and Russian forces continue to grapple with the challenges electronic warfare (EW) systems pose on the front.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced on November 25 that Ukraine’s Western partners agreed to transfer warships to Ukraine to protect Ukraine’s grain corridor in the Black Sea.
  • Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan stated that Russia has not fulfilled arms export deals to Armenia and offered an alternative arrangement that would allow Russia to keep the weapons against the backdrop of recent deteriorating Russian-Armenian relations.
  • Infighting among Russian ultranationalist milbloggers, likely exacerbated by ethnic tensions, has compelled a prominent milblogger to close his Telegram channel.
  • Other milbloggers attributed increased infighting among ultranationalist voices about the war in Ukraine to Russian politics and the coming 2024 Russian presidential elections.
  • Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, near Avdiivka, west and southwest of Donetsk City, in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast on November 25 and advanced in some areas.
  • Russian military commanders are reportedly ignoring frontline units’ requests for drones.



  • Ukraine’s Ministry of Reintegration reported on November 24 that over 13,500 Ukrainians returned to Ukraine from Russia via a humanitarian corridor in Sumy Oblast since its establishment in July 2023.
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