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Putin Has a Secret Weapon in Ukraine: Balloons?

Russian Air Force Su-35. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
Russian Air Force Su-35. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Ukraine War Update: After the Chinese spy balloon scare, Ukraine is the next country to have to deal with adversarial balloons over its territory.

On the ground, the war continues for the 362nd day.  

Russian Casualties in Ukraine

Overall, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Monday, Ukrainian forces have killed approximately 143,680 Russian troops (and wounded approximately twice to thrice that number).

Destroyed equipment includes: 299 fighter, attack, bomber, and transport jets, 287 attack and transport helicopters, 3,316 tanks, 2,334 artillery pieces, 6,553 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, 471 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), 18 boats and cutters, 5,209 vehicles and fuel tanks, 243 anti-aircraft batteries, 2,018 tactical unmanned aerial systems, 225 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems, and 873 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses. 

Ukraine Has Balloon Problems Too

The U.S. isn’t the only country that has to worry about adversarial balloons over its territory.

Last week, the Ukrainian military spotted over Kyiv several Russian balloons equipped with radar reflectors, while Ukrainian units in the east spotted also spotted balloons over Dnipro, Ukraine’s fourth largest city. 

“It is likely that the balloons were Russian. They likely represent a new tactic by Russia to gain information about Ukrainian air defence systems and compel the Ukrainians to expend valuable stocks of surface to air missiles and ammunition,” the British Military Intelligence assessed in a recent estimate of the war.

The Russian military has launched more than 1,200 ballistic and cruise missiles against Ukraine since early October, trying to take out the country’s power grid but also indiscriminately striking civilian targets and killing and wounded hundreds of innocent people. 

But Russian balloons have been spotted to the west of Ukraine too. 

“On 14 February 2023, sighting of a ‘balloon shaped’ object led to the closure of Moldovan airspace for several hours. There is a realistic possibility that this was a Russian balloon that had drifted from Ukrainian airspace,” the British Military Intelligence added. 

More Tanks for Ukraine 

According to the Finnish Ministry of Defense, the Scandinavian country will be announcing in the next few days its tank contribution to Ukraine. Finland was the first country to show a willingness to commit main battle tanks to Ukraine, with the requirement that another European nation joined in the scheme.

Now, several countries have committed tanks to Ukraine, and it looks like Finland will be sending both the A4 and A6 versions of the Leopard 2 main battle tank; the Nordic country has approximately 200 Leopard 2 tanks in different conditions.  

The Ukrainian military has asked for 300 Western main battle tanks to succeed in its upcoming counteroffensive. Thus far, several countries have committed around 200 Leopard 1, Leopard 2, Challenger 2, and M1A2 Abrams tanks

Meanwhile, in a surprise move, U.S. President Joe Biden is visiting Ukraine for the first time since the Russian invasion began. 

Biden’s visit to Ukraine comes just a few days before the war hits its one-year anniversary and is meant to be a sign of America’s commitment to the Ukrainian fight. 

Several other leaders, including Boris Johnson, Emanuel Macron, and Olaf Scholz, have also visited the embattled nation.

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Expert Biography: A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. He is currently working towards a Master’s Degree in Strategy and Cybersecurity at the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). His work has been featured in Business InsiderSandboxx, and SOFREP.

1945’s Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist with specialized expertise in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.