Terrifying footage has emerged from the Ukrainian frontline showing a Russian soldier destroying a Ukrainian missile launcher from a very close distance and what happens next can very well be imagined.
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The video shared on the pro-Russia Telegram handle begins with a Russian fighter armed with what appears to be a PKM belt-fed support machine gun equipped with armor-piercing incendiary cartridges, taking the position to shoot and aiming at a Ukrainian S-300 missile launcher.
After a few moments, the soldier pulls the trigger of his machine gun, expecting perhaps to damage the hardware or set off a minor explosion that will render the launcher inoperable.
However, immediately after the trigger is pulled, the missile launcher bursts into a massive explosion, the flames of which appear to be engulfing the gunman and possibly his comrade filming the video as well.
According to pro-Russian video publishers, the soldier destroying the S-300 missile launcher belongs to the Russian 255th regiment.
The publishers claimed on Telegram that none of the soldiers in the video were injured. However, judging by the size of the explosion, it is difficult to believe that members of the unit did not suffer any injuries.
An S-300 launcher can carry four missiles, each of which runs on volatile solid rocket fuel and is armed with large blast-fragmentation warheads weighing somewhere between 100 to 150 kilograms.
Shooting at the launcher from such proximity could be an attempt by the Russian forces to make the video more dramatic to capture attention because Ukraine is leading Russia by a wide margin in terms of information warfare.
Videos of destroyed Russian military equipment are found in large numbers across social media compared to the equipment belonging to Ukrainian forces.
It is also remarkable that this video shows the S-300 launcher being destroyed, which would be the latest in the line of numerous S-300 systems lost by the Ukrainian forces that in recent months have become a cause of concern for officials in Kyiv.
Ukraine Losing S-300 Missile Launchers
Before the Russian invasion, Ukraine had around 100 active batteries of S-300 long-range air-defense systems with as many as 300 launchers.
Ukraine appears to have lost around 24 of these launchers more than four months into the war, according to the figures compiled by the military tracking blog Oryx based on visual confirmations.
The Ukrainian military inherited a lot of air-defense equipment from the Soviet Union, which included six brigades and four regiments of S-300s that went to the Ukrainian Air Force and some additional S-300s that were taken over by Ukraine’s army.
An S-300 regiment is said to have four batteries together, operating up to 48 launchers with 192 missiles, while a brigade might have a hundred or more launchers and more than 400 operational missiles.
Considering the actual number of losses may be higher, this slow and steady loss of Ukraine’s longest-range surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) inventory could be of great concern for officials in Kyiv, as the longer the war continues, the more launchers will be destroyed.
Reports suggest that Ukraine’s air defenders are losing S-300 launchers at a rate of at least three or four a week.
Russia Could Soon Dominate Ukrainian Airspace
In March, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky sought help from the US Congress to acquire more S-300 systems, highlighting its importance and possibly indicating that the Ukrainian military may suffer a grave shortage of SAM batteries.
So far, only a single S-300PMU battery is known to have been provided to Ukraine by Slovakia.
However, the Russian Ministry of Defense has already claimed to have destroyed the S-300 air defense system delivered to Ukraine by Slovakia near the city of Dnipro using sea-based Kalibr cruise missiles.
According to claims made by Russian officials, four S-300 launchers and up to 25 Ukrainian armed forces personnel were hit.
Slovakian Prime Minister Eduard Heger’s office denied Russia’s claims saying, “Our S-300 system has not been destroyed,” in a statement sent to the Associated Press (AP).
Nevertheless, if the S-300s continue to be destroyed without replacement, Russia could soon operate in Ukraine’s airspace without much challenge.
While the Ukrainian forces have received thousands of portable anti-aircraft weapons since the beginning of the Russian invasion in February, these weapons cannot reach targets at high altitudes, which the S-300 and other similar long-range weapons are capable of achieving.
Things might improve a bit for Ukraine with the arrival of the two US-Norwegian-made National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS) in the country. However, it is still a medium-to-long-range surface-to-air missile-defense system and is incapable of the same long-range engagements that the S-300 is.