The Russian military and its leader, President Putin, have a serious problem: they are running out of missiles to sling at Ukraine. A partial way out of this problem seems to be to use older cruise missiles and strip out the deadly nuclear warheads. Could this work until more missiles can be produced? Is Russia really this desperate?
Russia is likely removing the nuclear warheads from aging cruise missiles and firing them into Ukraine, the UK Ministry of Defense said on Saturday.
The improvisation indicates how depleted Russia’s stocks of long-range missiles are, it said.
The defense ministry said that open source imagery appeared to show an AS-15 KENT air-launched cruise missile that had been shot down in Ukraine.
The missile was designed in the 1980s to be used as a nuclear delivery system, and the department noted that the nuclear warhead had likely been replaced with ballast, some kind of heavy material to balance it.
Such an “inert system” can still produce some damage through the missile’s kinetic energy and unspent fuel, according to the department.
However, the unarmed munitions are “almost certainly” being used as decoys to confuse Ukrainian air defenses, the department said, as they are unlikely to achieve any “reliable effects on intended targets.”
Ukrainian and western officials have previously suggested that Russia’s stockpiles of missiles and shells are rapidly dwindling, following Moscow amping up missile attacks on infrastructure targets across Ukraine.
US officials previously said that Russia is likely struggling to replenish its stockpiles due to sanctions and supply chain disruptions, the Associated Press reported.
Russia has not provided any information about its missile supplies, and there is no data to assess it independently.
Alia Shoaib is a junior news reporter on the weekend team, based in London. She was previously an editorial intern at The Economist’s 1843 magazine and a social media fellow at The Economist. Prior to that she was a part-time researcher for The Times foreign desk. Alia has written articles for the The Independent, The Guardian, 1843 Magazine, The Economist, and others. She also has an MA in International Journalism from City, University of London. This first appeared in Insider.