Putin’s combat air force flying just ‘tens of missions’ a day after more than 60 aircraft downed, says UK

Putin’s combat air force flying just ‘tens of missions’ a day after more than 60 aircraft downed, says UK

Vladimir Putin’s air force is now flying just “tens of missions” a day after losing more than 60 aircraft and coming under continued threat from Ukraine’s air defences, British defence chiefs said on Monday.

They believe that Russian air attacks will remain limited as winter deepens.

In its latest intelligence update, the Minstry of Defence in London said: “In recent months, the number of sorties conducted by Russian tactical combat aircraft over Ukraine has reduced significantly. Russian aircraft now probably conducts tens of missions per day, compared to a high of up to 300 per day in March 2022.

“Russia has now lost over 60 fixed-wing aircraft in the conflict, likely including an additional Su-24M FENCER fighter-bomber and a Su-25 FROGFOOT ground attack aircraft last week.”

The briefing continued: “The decrease in sorties is likely a result of continued high threat from Ukrainian air defences, limitations on the flying hours available to Russian aircraft, and worsening weather.

“With Russia’s ground attack tactics largely reliant on visual identification and unguided munitions, the Russian air force will likely continue a low rate of ground attack operations through the poor winter weather.”

However, Russia has been pounding key infrastructure in Ukraine for weeks, including electricity power stations, causing blackouts and leaving millions without heating as temperatures plummet.

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky urged citizens to be patient and strong in resisting the rigours of winter.

“To get through this winter, we must be even more resilient and even more united than ever,” he said in a video address on Sunday night,

Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko said on Telegram that blackouts would be confined from Monday to planned “stabilisation” cutoffs to get the grid working again, but added the situation remained “difficult”.

Ukraine’s largest power supplier, DTEK, said blackouts were planned for three other regions - Odesa, Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk in Ukraine’s south and east.

In Kherson, largely without power since Russian forces abandoned the southern city last month, the regional governor said 85 per cent of customers had electricity.

On the battlefront, Mr Zelensky said Ukrainian forces were holding positions along the front line, including near Bakhmut, viewed as Russia’s next target in their advance through Donetsk.

Ukraine’s military said Russian forces pressed for improved tactical positions to advance on Bakhmut and on the town of Avdiivka, just inside Ukrainian-controlled territory.

Russia’s defence ministry said its troops were conducting successful operations in the area of Bakhmut and had pushed back Ukrainian attacks in the Donetsk direction.

Russian forces also shelled 25 settlements along front lines in the south, including Kherson and Nikopol - on the Ukrainian-held side of the Kakhovka reservoir, opposite the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

Anatoliy Kurtev, the secretary of the Zaporizhzhia city administration, said on Monday that Russian forces had overnight hit industrial and energy infrastructure with rockets.

Meanwhile, a price cap on Russian seaborne oil came into force on Monday as the West tries to limit Moscow’s ability to finance its war in Ukraine, though Russia has said it will not abide by the measure even if it has to cut production.

The G7 nations (US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Canada) and Australia on Friday agreed a $60 (£49) per barrel price cap on Russian seaborne crude oil after European Union members overcame resistance from Poland. Russia is the world’s second-largest oil exporter.

But Mr Zelensky said the world had shown weakness by setting the cap at that level while Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said on Sunday it was a gross interference that contradicted the rules of free trade.

The G7 agreement allows Russian oil to be shipped to third-party countries using G7 and EU tankers, insurance companies and credit institutions, only if the cargo is bought at or below the $60 per barrel cap.

Industry players and a US official said in October that Russia can access enough tankers to ship most of its oil beyond the reach of the cap, underscoring the limits of the most ambitious plan yet to curb Russia’s wartime revenue.

According to Mr Zelensky, the $60 cap would do little to deter Russia from waging war in Ukraine. “You wouldn’t call it a serious decision to set such a limit for Russian prices, which is quite comfortable for the budget of a terrorist state,” he said.

The United States and its allies have imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia since it invaded Ukraine on February 24 and sent billions of dollars in aid to the Ukrainian government.

French President Emmanuel Macron, however, drew criticism from Ukraine and its Baltic allies over the weekend for suggesting the West should consider Russia’s need for security guarantees if it agrees to talks to end the war.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an aide to Mr Zelensky, said the world needed security guarantees from Russia, not the other way around.