As Scotland’s national bard, Robert Burns, put it so aptly almost 250 years ago: “The best laid plans o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley” (Ed’s note: No matter how carefully a project is planned, something may still go wrong with it!).
Burns has long been popular in Russia, admired by intellectuals for his empathy with the poor and oppressed, and his expressions of support for revolutionary causes.
Vladimir Putin is, therefore, likely to be familiar with the quote, although nobody has described him as an intellectual as far as I know. But, boy, do Burns’ words apply to him right now!
I have written about Putin’s mismanagement of his ill-judged incursion into Ukraine last year until I’m blue in the face and won’t bore you with it all again. One aspect worthy of further consideration, though, is how Putin’s war is now also being fought in Russia itself.
In popular football parlance it has “come home”.
Some of this has happened via physical incursions into the motherland, as in forays into the Belgorod Oblast which borders on Ukraine to the north-east, where there has been some skirmishing over the past few months. There are also some possible examples of sabotage by groups working inside Russia, but these have been few and far between and difficult to confirm.
What there most certainly have been, however, are attacks by Ukraine on the Russian homeland which have been delivered remotely. These have come primarily in the form of drone attacks from the air and the sea.
According to Russian media reports monitored by the BBC, there have been more than 150 suspected aerial drone attacks this year in Russia and in Russian-controlled territory in Ukraine. The majority of these have been in the Bryansk and Belgorod regions of Russia, near the western border with Ukraine.
Russian occupied Crimea has also had its fair share of aerial drone attacks on military facilities there, but there have been an increasing number of drone attacks on Moscow itself. The Russian capital is roughly 280 miles (450 kilometres) from the Ukraine border, suggesting a bourgeoning Ukrainian long-range capability.
Typically, Kyiv has neither confirmed or denied responsibility. Others, however, have suggested that the drones which hit the Kremlin a few months ago, for example, were probably launched from inside Russia, if only to avoid some of the extensive anti-air defences which surround the capital.
Images circulating on social media show a Tupolev Tu-22M on fire at the airbase. Such aircraft have been used extensively to attack Ukraine by launching missiles from inside Russian airspace.
The Kremlin said that a drone was hit and downed by small-arms fire but managed to “damage” a plane. Ukraine has not commented. Britain’s Ministry of Defence said in an intelligence briefing that the TU-22M was “highly likely destroyed” in the attack on Soltsy-2.
While the destruction of one aircraft will have little effect on the current 60-strong fleet, the operation has demonstrated once again Kyiv’s ability to strike targets deep inside Russian territory.
There have also been a number of Ukrainian sea drone attacks on Russian targets in the Black Sea. Earlier this month the Ukrainians attacked Novorossiysk, a key Russian port, damaging the naval landing ship the Olenegorsky Gornyak which was seen listing badly afterwards.
The greatest successes in the Black Sea, however, have come from at least two sea drone attacks on the bridge over the Kerch Strait, which has been damaged and closed temporarily on both occasions. Not only does this disrupt Russian military supplies into occupied Crimea but it also carries tremendous propaganda value, as the Kerch bridge is Putin’s pet project.
Kyiv has promised to continue to bring the fight home to the Kremlin and says it is rapidly increasing its production of drones as demand grows on the front lines on land and at sea.
All of this will have come to the notice of the general Russian population, despite the near stranglehold the Kremlin has on the mainly state-run media there. They can no longer be under any illusion, if indeed they ever were, that the war was something happening far away and little to do with them.
Now the conflict is quite clearly on their doorsteps and Ukrainian retaliatory raids reach far into Russia. The damage may be limited to that wrought on Ukraine to date but the pretence of a “special military operation” has been laid bare long ago.
For the Russian public the war has come home, and I doubt they like it very much. And for their leader it’s just another embarrassing humiliation. How long can he last?
Lt Col Stuart Crawford is a defence analyst and former army officer. Sign up for his podcasts and newsletters at www.DefenceReview.uk
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