Institute for the Study of War:  Ukraine dials back use of reconnaissance drones after shoot-downs by Russian air defenses

June 22, 2022

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Reinforced Russian air-defense systems in eastern Ukraine are increasingly limiting the effectiveness of Ukrainian drones, undermining a key Ukrainian capability in the war. Foreign Policy’s Jack Detsch quoted several anonymous Ukrainian officials and military personnel that Ukrainian forces have largely halted the use of Turkish Bayraktar drones, which were used to great effect earlier in the war, due to improvements in Russian air-defense capabilities. Ukrainian officials are reportedly increasingly concerned that US-provided Gray Eagle strike drones will also be shot down by reinforced Russian air defense over the Donbas. Ukrainian forces have reportedly scaled back air operations to 20 to 30 sorties per day and are facing a deficit of available aircraft for active pilots. Russian forces are likely prioritizing deploying air defenses to eastern Ukraine to nullify Ukrainian operations and to protect the artillery systems Russian forces are reliant on to make advances. However, the Ukrainian air force and armed drones remain active elsewhere, inflicting several successful strikes on targets in Kherson Oblast in the last week.

 

Members of the Russian military community continue to comment on the shortcomings of Russian force generation capabilities, which are having tangible impacts on the morale and discipline of Russians fighting in Ukraine. Russian milblogger Yuri Kotyenok claimed that Russian troops lack the numbers and strength for success in combat in Ukraine. Kotyenok accused Russian leadership of deploying new and under-trained recruits and called for replenishment of forces with well-trained recruits with ground infantry experience—though the Russian military is unlikely to be able to quickly generate such a force, as ISW has previously assessed. Despite growing calls for increased recruitment from nationalist figures, Russian leadership continues to carry out coercive partial mobilization efforts that are only producing limited numbers of replacements while negatively impacting the morale and discipline of forcibly mobilized personnel. Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) claimed that Russian authorities in Luhansk are arranging gas leaks in apartment buildings to force men who are hiding from mobilization into the streets. The Ukrainian Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) additionally reported that Russian soldiers in occupied Tokmak, Zaporizhia Oblast, are appealing to local Ukrainian doctors to issue them certificates alleging medical inability to continue military service.

Ukrainian forces conducted a drone strike (likely with a loitering munition, though this cannot be confirmed) on a Russian oil refinery in Novoshakhtinsk, Rostov Oblast, on June 22. Russian Telegram channel Voenyi Osvedomitel claimed that the strike, which targeted Russian infrastructure within 15 km of the Ukrainian border, originated from Donetsk Oblast. Ukrainian forces have not targeted Russian infrastructure for several weeks, and this strike is likely an attempt to disrupt Russian logistics and fuel supply to Russian operations in eastern Ukraine.

 

Key Takeaways

  • Russian forces continued to make gains to the south of Lysychansk and will likely reach the city in the coming days, although they are unlikely to quickly capture the Severodonetsk-Lysychansk area.

  • Russian forces continued offensive operations towards Slovyansk and made minor advances.

  • Russian forces intensified efforts to interdict Ukrainian lines of communication along the T1302 Bakhmut-Lysychansk highway in order to support Russian operations towards Lysychansk.

  • Russian forces focused on defensive operations along the Southern Axis and may have made marginal gains within Mykolaiv Oblast.

  • Russian authorities are continuing measures to facilitate the economic integration of occupied areas.