The Ukrainian air force has reportedly warned that should the country lose its command of the skies anytime soon it would risk a planned offensive in the spring and leave its cities in jeopardy from a Russian attack, The Times reports.
The brutally honest review comes from Colonel Yuri Ihnat, spokesman for the air force, and follows the crushing leak of Pentagon documents from February which indicate Ukraine could run out of resources for its air defence systems by May.
The Times quotes Mr Ihnat as saying: “The situation is very dangerous indeed. If we lose the battle for our skies the consequences will be critical.
“The Russians will smash every city just like they did in Syria. Our nuclear power stations will be vulnerable too. And we will struggle to protect our frontline troops.”
Ukraine’s air superiority was perhaps the biggest shock during the opening stages of Russia’s invasion, with the air defences and fighter jets shooting down multiple enemy aircrafts during the early weeks of the war, severely limiting where Russia’s bombers and helicopter gunships could venture beyond the active frontlines in the east.
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Russian President Vladimir Putin’s targets have been primarily reached via guided missiles.
However, Mr Ihnat said that could change unless Ukraine finds a solution to its running out of resources such as Soviet-era Buk and S-300 anti-aircraft missiles, which compose 90 per cent of the country’s air defences.
Mr Ihnat said: “The problem is where to get them from,” adding that some had been supplied by Slovakia.
“Only the Russians produce them, so sooner or later we are going to run out.”
The Pentagon judged that supplies would run out in early May, which is particularly fatiguing for Ukrainian military officials who have campaigned urgently about the issue since September.
Once stocks have run out, the majority of vital infrastructure excluding Kyiv are at risk, which concerningly includes four nuclear power plants.
The Pentagon’s review also revealed that Ukraine would be unable to mass ground forces along its front lines if air defences were lost, further endangering any ideas of spring attacks.
Two Patriot anti-aircraft batteries, with ranges of up to 100 miles, were promised to Kyiv two months ago, but are yet to reach Ukrainian land.
With Russia’s aerial plans only advancing, Kyiv’s pleas for allies to provide F-16 fighter jets have become progressively desperate.
Russia’s intensifying of their aerial attacks have increased fears, with Mr Ihnat explaining: “They have gone from dropping a few a day to around two dozen every day along our entire line of contact.
“They are dropped from SU-35 and SU-34 jets outside the range of our air defence system, then travel 40 miles to their target.
“This is a serious threat and at the moment we have no equipment to respond. The only way is with systems like the Patriot (or) modern fighter jets like the F-16. That is why we are begging our allies to give us them now.”
An emotional plea was made by President Volodymyr Zelensky during his visit to London in February.
He said to Parliament: “We have freedom. Give us wings to protect it.”