Russia firing ageing cruise missiles because stocks are depleted, MoD suggests

The Guardian
The Guardian
Vladimir Putin Photograph: Alexander Shcherbak/AP

Russia is firing ageing cruise missiles stripped of their nuclear warheads at Ukrainian targets because Vladimir Putin’s stocks are so depleted, the Ministry of Defence has suggested.

An intelligence update from the British MoD on Saturday said the desperate improvisation by the Russian president’s struggling forces are “unlikely to achieve reliable effects”.

The evidence cited is pictures of apparently shot down AS-15 Kent air-launched cruise missiles, which were said to have been designed in the 1980s as a nuclear delivery system.

The MoD said the nuclear warheads had probably been replaced with ballast, with the Kremlin’s hope probably that the missiles will distract Ukrainian air defences.

“Although such an inert system will still produce some damage through the missile’s kinetic energy and any unspent fuel, it is unlikely to achieve reliable effects against intended targets,” a statement said.

“Whatever Russia’s intent, this improvisation highlights the level of depletion in Russia’s stock of long-range missiles.”

Related: Much of Ukraine still without power, heat and water after missile attacks

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has said 6 million households are without power after the Kremlin targeted Ukrainian infrastructure with missile strikes.

There are growing fears that a major health crisis will hit the Ukrainian people as snow and sub-zero temperatures couple with lack of heating.

In a rare public spat Zelenskiy criticised the mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, for doing what he said was a poor job setting up emergency shelters to help those without power and heat after Russian attacks.

The foreign secretary, James Cleverly, visited Kyiv this week and pledged “hands-on” support to help Ukraine through the winter as he committed an extra £3m to help rebuild infrastructure.

He said: “As winter sets in, Russia is continuing to try and break Ukrainian resolve through its brutal attacks on civilians, hospitals and energy infrastructure. Russia will fail.

“The UK stands shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine.”

Cleverly said the bulk of the infrastructure funding would go to newly liberated areas in southern Ukraine such as Kherson.

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