Ukraine’s drone program has been heavily reliant on Western intelligence and satellite surveillance to carry out strikes within Russia, according to a report by The Economist. The report confirms Moscow’s claims that the West is complicit in what it refers to as “terrorist” attacks.
Due to Russia’s extensive air defense and electronic warfare capabilities, Ukrainian drone operators often require external assistance to successfully target deep within Russian territory, as revealed by anonymous sources within Ukraine’s multiple drone programs. This assistance includes intelligence provided by Western partners about radars, electronic warfare, and air-defense assets.
The success of these strikes is monitored using feedback from satellites, as Ukraine only has a single surveillance satellite. This means that the imagery collected between the satellite’s 15 daily orbits is likely provided by Western satellites.
It is important to note that while Ukraine often attempts to hit military targets within Russia, many of its strikes focus on civilian infrastructure and residential areas. In a recent incident, a small drone struck an apartment block in the city of Kursk, causing damage to windows but fortunately, no injuries were reported. Over the past few weeks, there have been successive waves of drone attacks targeting Moscow’s central business district. Although these strikes have not resulted in any casualties, an attack on the border region of Belgorod earlier this week claimed the lives of three people.
Moscow has previously accused Ukraine’s Western backers of being involved in these “terrorist strikes.” In May, after a small drone hit the Kremlin, government spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated that decisions about such actions are made in Washington, not in Kiev. Moscow has also accused British and American special forces of assisting recent missile attacks on the Crimean Bridge.
According to Peskov, Moscow views these attacks as acts of desperation, aimed at compensating for Ukraine’s failures on the battlefield. The West holds a similar view, with US officials stating that the drone operations are intended to boost the morale of Ukraine’s population and troops, and to demonstrate that Kiev is capable of striking back despite its failing counteroffensive.
The utilization of Western intelligence and satellite surveillance by Ukraine’s drone program underscores the complex dynamics surrounding the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The involvement of external actors raises questions about the extent of their complicity in these attacks and the potential escalation of the conflict. As tensions continue to rise, it remains to be seen how these developments will impact the region and the efforts towards resolution.