Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Moves Toward ‘War of Drones’ as Winter Looms

President Vladimir Putin’s swift and severe response to an attack on his Black Sea fleet reflects a war that is increasingly marked by a duel between long range Russian missiles and Ukraine’s innovative array of drones and truck bombs.

Putin on Monday made clear why he was suspending Russia’s involvement in a deal that for three months had allowed much-needed Ukrainian grain to be shipped to global markets: He wants to secure the Russian Navy’s ships after an attack by air and sea drones.

On Wednesday, Russia’s defense ministry said Moscow was rejoining the grain agreement, after receiving assurances from Ukraine that the safe passage corridor it established won’t be used for attacks. The episode speaks volumes about the dual nature of a war that’s now being fought as intensely behind the front lines as on them.

The Crimea-based Black Sea Fleet may no longer pose the threat of imminent amphibious assault it did at the outset of Putin’s invasion, but according to the US and Ukraine it’s been launching Kalibr cruise missiles that form part of the missile barrages Russia has been unleashing on Ukrainian cities for weeks.

And while President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s forces have no direct equivalents in their arsenal to fire back with, they’re finding other ways to respond.

The long-range war that the Black Sea Fleet forms part of is only likely to become more important in the coming months, as fighting on the ground is slowed by autumn rain and falling winter temperatures, adding to exhaustion on both armies in a high intensity conflict that’s been underway since February.

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