Russia may well be responsible for the recent barrage of spy balloons spotted over Ukraine, the UK Defence Ministry (MoD) has said.
This was followed by intense air strikes that pummelled Ukraine from east to west last week, including cruise and other missiles.
A recent update posted on the MoD’s Twitter page on Feb. 15, stated that Ukrainian armed forces spotted several balloons with radar reflectors suspended over Kyiv.
“Ukrainian officials reported that they shot down at least six of these. Earlier, on Feb. 12. 2023, Ukraine’s Air Force reported sighting balloons over eastern Dnipropetrovsk,” the update goes on to say.
According to the MoD, it’s likely that the balloons were of Russian origin.
“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,” it continues.
Then, on Feb. 14., another 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 MoD added.
This concurs with an earlier statement by Ukraine, saying that balloons with corner reflectors were launched by Russia to trick the country’s air defences.
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has urged world leaders to arm Ukraine in order to facilitate long-term defence measures to mitigate future Russian attacks.
Speaking at the Security Conference in Munich on Feb. 18, Sunak conveyed a two-fold message to western leaders, one being the need for urgent military backing for Ukraine to mitigate any spring offensive by Russian troops.
He further argued that foundations to bolster Kyiv’s long-term security must be facilitated by the West.
On Feb. 17., Estonian intelligence warned that Russia is using the balloons to weaken Ukraine’s air defence system.
“This week, for the first time, a strange phenomenon occurred, when meteorological balloons were observed over Kyiv. I don’t know whether the Russian Federation got this idea from the [recent alleged] Chinese [spy] balloons [in the United States] or from somewhere else, but in any case, we can see that this new tactic has now been introduced,” according to Colonel Margo Grosberg, who spoke at an Estonian Ministry of Defense briefing.
Grosberg went on to say that it seems fairly certain the objects were ordinary meteorological balloons, and were not carrying any military or intelligence cargo, as reported by Estonian news outlet ERR.
“The ones, which have been shot down were carrying reflectors to make sure they would be detected by air defense radars. That is part of the tactic to exhaust the Ukrainian air defenses,” he added.