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Why Russian air defense failed during Leningrad region shelling

Why Russian air defense failed during Leningrad region shelling Russian air defense system is set up for fire from NATO countries, not Ukraine (Russian media)
Author: Maria Kholina

The air defense system (ADS) in the Leningrad region of the Russian Federation failed to cope with recent drone attacks by Ukrainian forces, as it was designed to counter hypothetical strikes from NATO countries rather than attacks from the south, according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

The report suggests that the Russian air defense in the Leningrad region is weak and likely deployed not for protection against southern attacks but to fend off potential strikes from the northwest and west. Historically, Russia has positioned its air defense in this region to defend against hypothetical NATO attacks.

"The Russian military is currently reforming the Leningrad Military District (LMD) with the expressed intent to prepare for a potential future conventional war against NATO and may be arranging military assets in a way to posture along the border with NATO members. Ukrainian strikes in Leningrad region may prompt Russian forces to reposition short-range air defense systems along expected flight routes of Ukrainian drones to defend potential targets of strategic value," the report states.

ISW also noted that Russian forces are utilizing short-range systems like Pantsir, which are insufficient to cover all critical potential targets in the Leningrad region without deploying additional systems to the area. Consequently, continued Ukrainian strikes deep into Russian territory may increase pressure on the overall Russian air defense.

Drone attacks on Russian territory

On the night of January 21, Ukrainian forces launched drone attacks on the Shcheglovsky Val plant in Tula, which produces Pantsir ADS.

On the same night, drones targeted the oil terminal of the Maritime Trade Port in the town of Ust-Luga in the Leningrad region. The terminal, operated by the company Novatek, supplies fuel to Russian forces.

Following these attacks, the aggressor military forces are compelled to move their ADS from the front lines in Ukraine.

For more details on the night attacks in Russia, please refer to RBC-Ukraine's report.