A Ukrainian woman is evacuated from her apartment in the southern city of Mykolaiv earlier in November. Russian missile strikes destroyed an apartment complex.Image Daniel Rosenthal / de Volkskrant

    Aren’t the Russian army’s missiles running out?

    The Ukrainian government has already suggested several times that the Russian army is steadily running out of its weapons arsenal. In particular, the high-quality missiles, such as the short-range missile Iskander, are said to be running out by now. Just this week, Ukrainian Defense Minister Reznikov published a statement that would show that only 119 of the 948 Iskander missiles are left.

    The Russians have a hard time producing new missiles; the necessary electronics are not available due to the international boycott. As a result, the Russian army would use more traditional and less accurate missiles, is Reznikov’s message.

    Like so much war data, these figures are also surrounded by great uncertainty. The Russians themselves, of course, do not disclose their weapons stockpiles, and no independent information is available. Security services will have a better picture, but remain silent about this.

    However, Reznikov’s missile list also shows that even according to Ukraine, the Russian army still has more than enough missiles at hand. Some 7,000 pieces of the old S-300 land rocket are still available. Of the missiles fired from an aircraft, a larger part of the stock would have been used, according to the Ukrainian figures.

    Whether missiles are actually deployed also depends on other factors, former commander of the land forces Mart de Kruif responds to the Ukrainian figures. For example, for missiles fired from aircraft, enough pilots and aircraft must be available. “The bottom line, however, is that Russia will have enough weapons in the short term to sustain the strategic campaign against Ukraine’s energy system.”

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    How many missiles has the Russian army fired?

    Since the successful Ukrainian attack on the Crimean bridge on October 8, the Russian army has increased its rocket attacks on Ukrainian cities and energy installations. On Wednesday there was a large-scale attack for the twelfth time. An estimated 70 rockets were fired, of which the Ukrainian army says it intercepted 51.

    A week earlier, the Russians carried out the largest missile strike since the start of the war. Over 100 rockets were fired on November 15; the Ukrainian Air Force intercepted 75 missiles and 10 Shahed-136 drones. The Ukrainians are assisted in this by the United States. The US-supplied anti-aircraft system has a “100 percent success rate,” according to US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. But the Ukrainians must also use other less successful defense systems.

    Since October 8, the Russians have fired a total of 360 missiles in twelve waves of attacks, according to an inventory of de Volkskrant based on publications by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a US think tank, and coverage by the Ukrainian armed forces. With air defense, the Ukrainian army was able to neutralize a significant part – more than 70 percent – of the missiles. That means 104 missiles were not stopped.

    The number of defused missiles has been fairly constant in recent weeks. The Ukrainian army fails to repel more attacks, but the Russians often fail to evade air defenses as well. The drones are easier for Ukraine to intercept. Of the 142 drones counted by the ISW, the Ukrainian army managed to get 85 percent out of the air.

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    What do the Russians want to achieve with the barrage? What are the targets?

    The attacks by the Russian army with missiles are mainly aimed at critical infrastructure. The main aim seems to be to demoralize the civilian population. The failure of utilities has no direct military importance, but should above all make life more difficult for civilians, especially now that winter is approaching.

    Power plants in particular are the target of the attacks. All fifteen power plants have already been hit once. Some of them have completely failed, and roughly half of the power plants have been able to restart production after an attack so far. All still operating nuclear power plants were also temporarily disconnected from the power grid on Wednesday, so that even larger parts of Ukraine are now experiencing power outages.

    In addition to attacks with high-quality missiles, the Russian army also uses drones. Iranian drones often target major cities. According to the experts of the ISW, the military effect of these weapons is relatively small, but they can lead to many civilian deaths and injuries, and major damage to civilian infrastructure. In this way, the population is terrified.

    The map of Acled, a body that collects figures on conflicts in the world, shows that the missiles and drones cover the entire country. Mainly large cities such as Kyiv and Lviv are hit, but the bombs also fall in Vinnytsia and Poltava.

    But whether the bombing of civilian targets and infrastructure has much effect on the course of the war, former general De Kruif dares to doubt. “Breaking the will of an adversary by using massive force from a distance has rarely proven effective – see Germany’s missiles in World War II and the US’s bombing of North Vietnam.”