Ukraine posing real threat to Putin as Storm Shadow missiles could ‘change war’

Sunak meets Zelensky at Chequers

The UK’s Storm Shadow missiles offer Ukraine the chance to open up a “new” layer to the war waged by Russia, has been told.

Last week, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace confirmed that the missiles, promised by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in February, were arriving in Ukraine.

On Monday morning, reports told of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s surprise visit to the UK in light of the shipment of the missiles, the Ukrainian leader coming to pay his thanks in person and ask for more support.

For many, Storm Shadow will be a game-changer in the conflict. They can strike targets at long distances, hundreds of kilometres, and are expected to be used to destroy key Russian command and control centres — throwing any game plan by Vladimir Putin’s military into disarray.

Dr Neil Melvin, Director of International Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), noted that while much attention has been paid to the missiles’ long-range nature, “there are other significant aspects to the missile that should be highlighted”.

Speaking to, he said the technology could change the nature and pace of the war, just as the conflict appears to be entering a significant stage.

He explained: “The missiles are a significant addition to Ukraine’s capabilities and will help to reshape the battlefield to Kyiv’s advantage, but no single weapon system is a game changer on its own. As Russia has shown when the Himars were deployed, it can adapt and reduce the effect.

“What will change the picture is if Kyiv is able to bring together the various systems that it has received (armour, missiles, mine clearance, planes, bridging equipment, air defence, western trained brigades, intelligence, logistical support), and use them in a combined arms operation.

“So the key is going to be communication, coordination and maintaining momentum. They have to draw on all these elements and operate them together to enable breakthroughs and the seizure of substantial territory and strategic targets.”

At the beginning of the war, Russia tried its hand at precisely this kind of warfare. Yet, as Dr Melvin noted, “it couldn’t do it, and has now fallen back on artillery assaults like in Bakhmut”.

Moscow has already claimed that Ukraine has used Storm Shadow missiles to strike two industrial sites in the Russian-held city of Luhansk.

While the reports have not been verified, the Russian military says the missiles hit a plant producing polymers and a meat-processing factory in the area on Friday.

If true, Ukraine could be accused of targeting civilian infrastructure. It could also prove the extent to which the missiles have succeeded in travelling far behind the frontline and into Russian-held territory.

Dr Melvin said such instances could force Russia to move critical infrastructure and posts further east and possibly into official Russian territory.

He explained: “The deployment of the missiles means that either the Russians have to move these facilities well away from the front line or risk them being destroyed.

“This is vital because the Ukrainian counterattack will rely on finding gaps in the Russian defences, poor communication between Russian forces deployed along the front, and the Russians not committing their reserves quickly enough to stop breakthroughs.

“The further that the headquarters and commanding officers are from the front, the more incomplete their information about what is happening and the slower the responses.”

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Arriving in the UK, Mr Zelensky greeted Mr Sunak with a hug. The pair had met only months before in the UK, when Mr Zelensky had been on a world tour seeking military assistance from allies. His second trip is much the same, this time limited to Western Europe.

During the whistle-stop visit, Mr Sunak praised his Ukrainian counterpart’s courage and bravery and said the UK would be “sustaining our support” for Ukraine.

“This is a crucial moment in Ukraine’s resistance to a terrible war of aggression they did not choose or provoke,” he said.

“They need the sustained support of the international community to defend against the barrage of unrelenting and indiscriminate attacks that have been their daily reality for over a year. We must not let them down.”

The talks bore great fruit for Mr Zelensky: the UK has pledged to help train Ukrainian pilots to use Western fighter jets “relatively soon”.

While he said providing warplanes was not “straightforward”, Mr Sunak added that Britain will play a “key part” alongside other nations in helping to rebuild and reboot Ukraine.

He said: “It is not a straightforward thing as Volodymyr and I have been discussing to build up that fighter combat aircraft capability.

“It’s not just the provision of planes it’s also the training of pilots and all the logistics that go alongside that and the UK can play a big part in that.

“One thing we will be doing starting actually relatively soon is training of Ukrainian pilots and that’s something we’ve discussed today and we’re ready to implement those plans in relatively short order.”

There are currently no plans to supply Ukraine with Typhoon or F-35 jets operated by the UK. But Britain will provide hundreds more air defence missiles and further unmanned aircraft, including hundreds of new long-range attack drones

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