Putin Using Spy Balloons Over Ukraine, Says British Intelligence

UK says the "new tactic by Russia" is designed to gain information about Ukrainian air defence systems.
MIKHAIL METZEL via Getty Images

Vladimir Putin is likely to be responsible for balloons spotted over Kyiv, British intelligence has said.

Last week Russia again pummelled Ukraine with a barrage of cruise and other missiles, hitting targets from east to west.

In its latest intelligence update on Sunday, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) said: “On 15 February 2023 Ukrainian armed forces spotted several balloons with radar reflectors suspended beneath them over Kyiv.

“Ukrainian officials reported that they shot down at least six of these. Earlier, on 12 February 2023, Ukraine’s Air Force reported sighting balloons over eastern Dnipropetrovsk.

“It is likely that the balloons were Russian. They likely represent a new tactic by Russia to gain information about Ukrainian air defence systems and compel the Ukrainians to expend valuable stocks of surface to air missiles and ammunition.

“On 14 February 2023, sighting of a ‘balloon shaped’ object led to the closure of Moldovan airspace for several hours.

The MoD added: “There is a realistic possibility that this was a Russian balloon that had drifted from Ukrainian airspace.”

Britain’s assessment matches that made earlier by Ukraine, which said Russian troops had launched balloons with corner reflectors to deceive air defences.

It came as Rishi Sunak told world leaders they must arm Ukraine now and set about boosting its long-term future against further Russian aggression.

The prime minister, in a speech at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, had a two-fold message for the West.

He said that Ukraine needed military backing by allies to counter any spring offensive by Putin’s troops.

But he argued the West must also start to put in place the foundations to strengthen Kyiv’s security in the long term.


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