In war the element of surprise is everything. At 8.00am Russian time Vzglyad ru reported an attack on an oil depot in Belgorod within Russia the night before, as revealed by the governor of the region Vyacheslav Gladkov. Two Ukrainian attack helicopters launched the raid on eight tanks containing 2000 cubic metres of fuel.
How is this not a war? It is not so much the damage caused – there were only two people injured – as the psychological impact on the Russian population all along the Ukrainian border that matters and among the population at large when they learn of their country’s true vulnerability. Suddenly they could be involved in a war on their side of the frontier. Suddenly they are potentially victims. An ammunitions dump had, after all, unaccountably blown up in the region a few nights before.
One reader commented sarcastically: “They came in, attacked and left…air forces which, according to assertion, Ukraine doesn’t have…Air defences that even a mosquito could not fly through undetected.” Some writing in had years of experience in air defences. Flying at low level, air defence is useless, one reader pointed out. “Don’t you remember Rust on Red Square?”, wrote another. [The young West German flew a plane right through Soviet air defence from Finland through to the Kremlin unimpeded on 28 May 1987, which prompted Gorbachev to sack his Defence Minister.] Air defence works “when it works”, a reader insisted. So, “with air defence like that, expect another Rust”, came the rejoinder.
Russian air defence (PVO), since Vietnam taught the USAF that they had to go in low, which became the norm for NATO training (ask the farmers of Lincolnshire), has long been a chronic weakness in the Russian armed forces; not least because Russia’s vastness gives it a length of border at all points of the compass that is almost impossible to defend against sneak surprise attack below line of horizon radar.
Reported on 1 April at 8.00am Russian time by Anton Nikitin in
“Пожар на нефтебазе в Белгороде возник в результате удара вертолетов ВСУ”