UK praised by Ukrainian pilot for playing crucial role in stopping Putin’s air onslaught

Unexploded Russian missile lodges itself into Ukrainian home

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Russian forces launched fresh shelling on residential areas in Ukraine on Wednesday morning with significant damage to a number of buildings. Luhansk’s regional military head, Serhiy Haidai, wrote on his Telegram channel that high-rise buildings have been “significantly destroyed” and that there was “a lot of rubble”. The news comes just hours after Russia pledged to scale back its so-called “military operation” in Kyiv and Chernihiv, a claim that has been met with scepticism both in Ukraine and around the world.

Russia claims it has “generally accomplished” its aims for the first phase of the military operation, but the war continues in the east and south of Ukraine.

The UK’s Ministry of Defence says Russia shifting its focus to these regions is a “tacit admission” that it cannot continue to maintain more than one axis of advance.

Ukrainians have fought valiantly to protect their country, with weaponry from NATO member countries proving invaluable in the fight against Putin.

British supplied ‘MANPADS’ (man-portable air defence systems) have been instrumental in the Ukrainian fight, a pilot told the BBC’s Ukrainecast this week.

The pilot, whose real name was hidden for his own safety and security, goes by the name of ‘Moonfish’ and flies MiG-29 fighter jets.

Asked who is winning the air war in Ukraine, he said: “I am 100 percent sure that, as of this moment, Russians have no air superiority over Ukraine.

“Only over those parts that they have taken already.”

Moonfish acknowledged that the Russians can use longer range missiles and that they are better equipped, but explained the role the UK is playing in the fightback.

He said: “Well, so far, we are [winning the air war].

“Combining the efforts of our ground-air defence and fighters, especially if we will obtain those reinforcements — Great Britain is giving really good MANPADS — I think we will be able to defend our skies from Russians for a while yet.”

He added that Ukrainian forces are “getting ready” to “take back” the territories Russia has already taken.

The UK has sent Starstreak missiles, a type of MANPADS, to Ukraine as it continues to provide immense support to Volodymyr Zelensky and his countrymen.

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Starstreak missiles, developed by Thales Air Defence in Belfast, are described as being “designed to provide close air defence against conventional air threats such as fixed wing fighters and late unmasking helicopter targets”.

Thales describes Starstreak as a “truly versatile missile” which can be “deployed quickly into operations and is easy to integrate into a force structure”.

Starstreak is believed to be the fastest short-range surface-to-air system in the world, and has been used by British forces for 25 years now.

According to The i they were installed on top of apartment blocks near the Olympic Park ahead of the London 2012 Olympics.

They are designed to be fired while mounted on a person’s shoulder or a tripod, and can be used to shoot down aircraft and drones.

Experts claim MANPADS have been at the forefront of the Ukrainian fightback, with videos posted by the Kyiv’s Ministry of Defence showing Russian helicopters and jets being shot down by surface-to-air missiles.

Mykola Bielieskov, a research fellow at the National Institute for Strategic Studies under President of Ukraine, told DW News earlier this month: “These MANPADS are very useful because they make Russian air strikes less effective.

“If you deploy them in large numbers, you certainly won’t shoot down every Russian jet and helicopter, but Russia would have to pay a steep price for an attack.”

Figures shared by the Ukrainian MoD on Wednesday morning claimed 131 Russian aircraft and a further 131 helicopters have been destroyed, though Moscow has not disclosed its own figure.

Nonetheless, President Zelensky does not believe MANPADS alone are enough, and has consistently called for a no-fly zone over his country.

Likewise, he has appealed for Soviet-made MiG-29 and Su jet fighters, arguing Russian forces vastly outnumber Ukraine.

The West has, however, been reluctant to implement both the no-fly zone and to provide aircraft over fears the war would escalate further.

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