Russia, in what is likely a desperate attempt to intimidate the West, has deployed missiles to Belarus while its forces in Ukraine falter, according to a new intelligence report.
Satellite imagery shared by British Secret Service show what are likely two MiG-31K FOXHOUND interceptors based at Belarus’ Machulishchi airfield on October 17, according to the UK MoD. Near the jets is a large canister that the Department of Defense estimates is likely intended for the AS-24 KILLJOY air-launched ballistic missile.
The KILLJOY missiles are launched from a high-speed aircraft to track their targets. Russia claims the missiles, also known as Kinzhal or “Dagger” missiles, can carry conventional or nuclear warheads and are hypersonic, reportedly traveling at over five times the speed of sound.
The current air defenses of Ukraine, according to the data, cannot detect and destroy them Hromadske, which could sound the alarm as to whether Russia intends to use Belarus as a base for an attack on Ukraine, repeating a tactic used by Russia at the start of the war. Russian President Vladimir Putin has leaned on Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko since the early days of the invasion this year in preparation for attacks on Ukraine, including the failed offensive on Kyiv.
But Russia could be conducting the operation to send a signal to the West and draw Belarus further into the war, rather than preparing an actual conspiracy to unleash an attack on Ukraine, according to British intelligence.
“It probably conducted the operation primarily to send a message to the West and portray Belarus as increasingly complicit in the war,” the defense ministry said. “KILLJOY’s deployment in Belarus gives Russia little additional advantage when it comes to attacking additional targets in Ukraine.”
If the move was just for show, it would fit a pattern for Belarus. The deployment comes weeks after Russia and Belarus began a joint “grouping” and deployment of troops in Belarus in what could appear in preparation for mobilization against Ukraine or other nations. But some US officials and diplomats have said the grouping is likely a ploy to trick Ukrainian forces into diverting resources to defend against a possible incursion from the north, rather than focus on the south, where Ukraine made gains against Russian forces.
Efforts to dissuade Ukrainian forces to the south and east from their winning tactics may be a last-ditch attempt by Russia to regain momentum amid a series of crushing battlefield losses. Russia currently has “tense logistics” and is currently unable to conduct offensive operations and is “capable of only defensive operations,” according to a British intelligence assessment released last week.
The White House warned Tuesday that Russia’s build-up with Belarus could be a ruse.
“While they claim it wants to bolster their bilateral preparedness, it could also be an attempt to pin down Ukrainian forces in the north of the country,” White House National Security Council coordinator John Kirby told reporters on Tuesday.
Likewise, the KILLJOY missiles might not even be that helpful to Putin’s goals. Russia has already used some of the KILLJOY missiles during the war in Ukraine, with limited effect, according to the US Department of Defense.
“As you can see from the conflict, hypersonic is not necessarily the best use,” Undersecretary for Research and Technology Heidi Shyu said in a remark last month. “They fired their KILLJOY hypersonic weapon against a dam. The dam is still there.”
British intelligence previously estimated that Russia’s use of the weapon could not have a major impact on the war. When Russia claimed to have used hypersonics in the March war, the British said the Russian claim was “most likely intended to distract from a lack of progress in Russia’s ground campaign.”
News of their deployment in Belarus comes as Russia has launched a barrage of missiles into Ukraine in recent days. On Monday, Russia launched a wave of missiles that hit vital infrastructure and left Kyiv without water and electricity for hours. Mayor Vitali Klitschko said in a post on Telegram on Tuesday that supplies have been restored, although the city will still use some “emergency shutdowns” of power supplies.
US officials have said they do not expect Russia to ease its attacks on civilian areas, but are working to improve Ukraine’s air defenses.
The Biden administration has committed to sending eight National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS) to Ukraine, two of which are headed for Ukraine “in the very near future,” a senior U.S. defense official told Monday reporters.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is working with allies to help Ukraine improve its air defenses, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
https://www.thedailybeast.com/vladimir-putin-parades-new-missile-nightmare-in-belarus-in-latest-threat-to-ukraine?source=articles&via=rss Vladimir Putin parades a new missile nightmare in Belarus in the latest threat to Ukraine