Russian defence minister calls for missile production to double

Russia launched a drone attack on Kyiv overnight on Tuesday, though all drones were shot down, Ukrainian officials say.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu take part in a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier by the Kremlin Wall on the Defender of the Fatherland Day in Moscow, Russia, February 23, 2023. Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/Pool via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, right, and President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia, in February 2023 [File: Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/Pool via Reuters]

Russia’s defence minister has urged a state company to double its production of missiles as an expected Ukrainian counteroffensive looms and both Moscow’s and Kyiv’s forces are reportedly experiencing ammunition constraints.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, speaking at a meeting with the top military brass on Tuesday, said the state-owned Tactical Missiles Corporation had been fulfilling its contracts in a timely manner.

But, Shoigu added, “Right now, it is necessary to double the production of high-precision weapons in the shortest possible time”.

Military analysts have been trying to determine whether Russia is running low on high-precision ammunition as its missile barrages against Ukraine have become less frequent and smaller in scale.

The Institute for the Study of War said on Wednesday that Shoigu’s comments on missile production were likely designed to deflect from claims that his ministry was unable to keep Russian forces adequately stocked with ammunition as well as to appear proactive amid concerns of the impending Ukrainian counteroffensive.

The United Kingdom’s Defence Ministry said on Tuesday that “logistics problems remain at the heart of Russia’s struggling campaign in Ukraine”.

“Russia does not have enough munitions to achieve success on the offensive,” the ministry said. “Russia continues to give the highest priority to mobilising its defence industry, but it is still failing to meet war time demands.”

Russia launched a third nightly round of attacks on Kyiv in six days on Tuesday, Ukrainian authorities said early on Wednesday, but air defence systems destroyed all the Russian drones aiming at the city with no immediate reports of casualties or destruction.

Air raid sirens blared for several hours in Kyiv, the surrounding region and most of eastern Ukraine, with the skies clearing only at dawn.

“All enemy targets were identified and shot down in the airspace around the capital,” Kyiv’s military administration said on the Telegram messaging app, citing initial details.

Iranian-made Shahed drones were involved in the attacks, the administration said, though it was not immediately known how many drones were shot down.

In the early hours of Wednesday, a fire was reported at a fuel storage facility near a key bridge in Russia’s southwestern region of Krasnodar, the regional governor said.

The blaze broke out in the village of Volna, in the Temryuk administrative district, he said. It lies close to the Crimean Bridge, or the Kerch Strait Bridge, which links Russia’s mainland with Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula that Moscow annexed in 2014.

“The fire has been classified as the highest rank of difficulty,” Veniamin Kondratyev, the governor of Krasnodar, which lies across the Sea of Azov from Ukraine, said on the Telegram messaging app.

“Every effort is being made to prevent the fire from spreading further,” Kondratyev added. “There is no threat to residents of the village.”

The fire in Krasnodar comes after a drone strike set ablaze a Russian fuel storage facility in the Crimean port of Sevastopol early on Saturday in what Moscow said was a Ukrainian attack. It also follows the derailing of two freight trains by explosions in the Russian region of Bryansk, which borders Ukraine and Belarus.

Russian officials say pro-Ukrainian sabotage groups have made multiple attacks there since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

Ukraine almost never publicly claims responsibility for attacks in Russia and on Russian-controlled territory, such as Crimea. Kyiv’s military has said that undermining Russia’s logistics formed part of preparations for its long-expected counteroffensive.

Ukrainian forces say they are readying for the counteroffensive and stockpiling ammunition to sustain it along potentially long supply lines.

Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov said on Monday that the “key things” for success were “the availability of weapons, prepared, trained people, our defenders and defenders who know their plan at their level, as well as providing this offensive with all the necessary things – shells, ammunition, fuel, protection, etc”.

“As of today, we are entering the home stretch, when we can say: ‘Yes, everything is ready’,” Reznikov said in televised comments about the expected forthcoming attack.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies