According to images shared on social media on Thursday, Putin has installed missile systems on Moscow rooftops.
The Kremlin appears to be preparing for a possible, albeit unlikely, attack on the Russian capital by placing missile systems intended to intercept aircraft and incoming missiles on top of several defence and administrative buildings in downtown Moscow.
A Pantsir missile system was deployed on the top of an eight-story structure used by the Russian defence ministry beside the Moskva River, according to images shared on social media on Thursday.
In another video, the air defence system could be seen being raised onto the top of a school in Moscow’s Taganka district, 1.5 miles southeast of the Kremlin.
In order to protect against aircraft, helicopters, and cruise missiles, short- to medium-range systems are used. They might also be used against smaller targets, including military and commercial drones, which have multiplied on battlefields since Vladimir Putin began his extensive invasion in February, according to the Russian military.
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A day before a meeting of western defence officials at Germany’s Ramstein airbase to discuss a fresh military aid package for Ukraine that would involve the donation of heavy tanks, pictures of the missile systems in Moscow surfaced online.
The US has already committed to providing Ukraine with about $2 billion in further military assistance, including a Patriot air defence system to shield Ukrainian cities from Russian missiles.
However, Russian authorities have issued warnings in an effort to deter Nato countries from contributing more sophisticated weapons by asserting that doing so may potentially lead to a nuclear warfare.
“The defeat of a nuclear power in a conventional war can provoke the beginning of a nuclear war,” wrote Dmitry Medvedev, the former president, who has become a leading hawk as deputy chairman of Russia’s security council.
The installation of the missile systems was not immediately confirmed by Russian military officials. However, a number of Russian media outlets have also covered the recent installation of long-range S-400 missile systems in Moscow. Systems like the Pantsir-S1 and S-400 are frequently employed together.
The missile defence systems have emerged in response to a Russian bombing campaign that used missiles and drones to strike infrastructure and cities in Ukraine, killing a large number of people there. Last week, a Russian X-22 anti-ship ballistic missile killed 45 people when it hit an apartment building in the city of Dnipro.
The presence of the missile systems in Moscow, according to pro-Kremlin bloggers, on Thursday indicated that the Russian military leadership was now worried about strikes on their own cities.
“It means that [the leadership] perfectly understand all the risks and understand that strikes against Moscow and the regions are just a question of time,” wrote Alexander Kots, a prominent Russian journalist who supports the Russian war in Ukraine. “It’s good to begin planning in advance instead of after the first strikes.”
The appearance of the defensive missile defence systems emphasises Russia’s military failure. At military facilities in Crimea and at a number of airbases where Russian strategic bombers were last month operating deep within Russian territory, strange explosions have occurred. Additionally, according to Ukrainian officials, long-range drone testing has started. These drones have a maximum range of 1,000 km (621 miles), which may put Moscow within striking distance.
“Russia has long given a very high priority to maintaining advanced ground-based air defences, but it is increasingly clear that it is struggling to counter air threats deep inside Russia,” the UK defence ministry wrote last year, a day after the explosions at Russia’s Engels airbase.