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Russia deploys air defenses in Moscow, signaling fear of strikes on the capital

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RIGA, Latvia — The Kremlin on Friday declined to comment on the recent installation of air defense systems at several locations in and around Moscow as Russia seeks to close gaps in its defenses, apparently fearing Ukraine could launches a daring and humiliating attack on the Russian capital.

Russia has deployed Pantsir-S1 air defense systems atop two government buildings in Moscow, including the Defense Ministry on Frunzenskaya Embankment and a district Education Ministry building on Teterinsky Lane, according to independent media from Russian language.

Photographs of the distinctive air defense system have been posted on social media.

Other air defense systems have been installed at several other sites in or near Moscow, including the Odintsovo district, about 10 km from President Vladimir Putin’s residence in Novo-Ogaryovo, outside the capital, according to the Russian media Sirena, which published videos and still images.

Russian military analyst Ruslan Leviev of Conflict Intelligence Team, an independent group that analyzes open source intelligence, said an S-400 air defense system would be installed in the park on Losiny Island, outside of Moscow, where trees have been felled in recent days. Leviev spoke on Popular Politics, a YouTube channel associated with imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Asked on Friday whether the Kremlin feared airstrikes were being carried out against Moscow, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov referred the questions to the Russian Defense Ministry. “They are responsible for ensuring the security of the country in general and the capital in particular, so it is better to ask the Ministry of Defense about all the measures that are taken,” Peskov said.

The Russian Defense Ministry rarely responds to questions from Western media and did not respond to an emailed question on Friday. The range of the Pantsir-S1 defense system would cover much of central Moscow, including the Kremlin.

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The positioning of the weapons follows criticism from Russian analysts of shortcomings in Russian air defenses after at least four Ukrainian strikes last month on military airfields deep in Russia, including three targeting the Engels military air base near of Saratov, where Russia bases long-range strategic operations. bombers. Another hit Diagilevo air base near Ryazan, about 180 km southeast of Moscow.

“It seems they are drawing conclusions from the fact that Ukrainian drones were flying to bases far in the rear, such as Diagilevo and Engels,” Leviev said. “Apparently because of this fear, and in general because of Vladimir Putin’s fear of missile attacks, they decided to strengthen Moscow’s defenses in this way, because they understand very well that with a Russian air defense also fleeing along the border, apparently Ukrainian drones can theoretically also reach Moscow.

The December attacks demonstrated Kyiv’s ability to strike deep into Russian territory as Ukraine continues to struggle to regain territory lost in the full-scale invasion of Moscow.

The airstrikes in Russia followed a series of other Ukrainian surprise attacks that humiliated Moscow, including the bombing of a bridge connecting Crimea with Russia, strikes on the Saki air base in Crimea and the sinking of the warship Moskva, the flagship of the Russian Black Sea. Fleet.

Russia is strengthening the defenses of its capital as Putin prepares the Russian public for a long and difficult war against Ukraine and a protracted confrontation with NATO.

Putin swung the Russian economy onto a war footing, demanding that businesses serve the war effort, and increasingly militarized Russian society, stepping up a propaganda effort to build support for the war, the amid mounting casualties at the front and swirling rumors of a possible second, unpopular mass mobilization.

Since the invasion began, Putin has crushed his political opposition and Russia has crushed resistance to war by banning protests, restricting free speech and jailing critics.

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On Tuesday, Putin ordered an increase of more than 350,000 in Russia’s military strength – to a total of 1.5 million, although it is far from certain the country can muster enough volunteer soldiers under contract . to reach this goal.

After winter slowed their advances, Russian and Ukrainian forces would each prepare for new offensives, paving the way for what could be a decisive phase of the war in the months to come.

The sight of air defense missiles in central Moscow is another sign of the normalization of warfare in Russian life.

As the invasion drags on, officials including Putin increasingly refer to it as a NATO-led “war” against Russia, calling it, without evidence, an existential battle for survival against greedy Western powers determined to dismember and swallow up the Russian nation.

After the strikes in early December on two Russian airbases, Russian military historian Yuri Knutov, director of the Museum of Air Defense Forces, told state television that Russia left holes in its air defense system when she had sent a large part of her military equipment to Ukraine. .

“Gaps have formed in our air defense system. American satellites can see these gaps well. I don’t doubt it, and the specialists don’t doubt it,” Knutov warned at the time.

Prominent pro-war Russian military blogger Alexander Kots, a reporter for the popular pro-Kremlin tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda, wrote on his Telegram channel that the installation of air defense systems in the capital was a positive sign, showing that the Russian authorities “understand that the strikes against Moscow and the region are a matter of time.

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Leviev said the newly installed air defense systems were a last resort, in case a missile or drone managed to evade Russian outer air defenses to reach Moscow. Without the war, he added, such systems would be positioned far from Moscow, “but Russia is now a belligerent country, and drones are coming to Russia, so that’s pretty much expected.”

As Western officials mull over sending heavy battle tanks to Ukraine, Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev warned on Thursday that nuclear powers such as Russia could not lose wars, and he threatened that Western efforts to support Kyiv could trigger a nuclear crisis. war. It was the latest in a series of nuclear threats issued by senior Russian officials.

War in Ukraine: what you need to know

The last: Russia claimed on Friday it had taken control of Soledar, a hotly contested mining town in eastern Ukraine where fighting has raged in recent days, but a Ukrainian military official argued the battle was not yet over. completed.

Russia’s bet: La Poste has examined road to war in Ukraineand Western efforts to unite to thwart Kremlin plans, through in-depth interviews with more than three dozen senior US, Ukrainian, European and NATO officials.

Pictures: Washington Post photographers have been in the field since the war began — here are some of their most powerful works.

How you can help: Here’s how those in the United States can support the Ukrainian people as good as what people around the world have given.

Read our full coverage of the Russia–Ukraine War. Are you on Telegram? Subscribe to our channel for updates and exclusive video.

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