Strike drones operated by Ukraine’s national intelligence agency, the SBU, on Wednesday hit and damaged a Russian S-400, in a first-time strike against the Kremlin’s best anti-aircraft system inside mainland Russia, an agency source told Kyiv Post.

Multiple drones flown by SBU operators struck elements of an S-400 Triumph anti-aircraft complex deployed near the Russian city Belgorod, the source said.

Consisting of truck-mounted radars, a mobile command post and multiple missile launch platforms, the S-400 costs $1.2 billion and is billed by Moscow to be the “world’s best” air defense system.

The SBU source said that given this is the second Triumph unit taken out by Ukraine in the last month, “[we] advise the Russians to think about a new name for this complex.”

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It was not immediately clear what part of the network had been damaged, or to what extent.

 

An official statement from the Belgorod governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov, did not mention an S-400 system, saying only that Russian air defenses around the city “destroyed” 19 flying objects, and that damage was limited to three automobiles and broken windows in a pair of buildings. 

Russian social media reported as many as 20 explosions from 1:30-2:00 a.m. in multiple locations around the city and in a rural region near Belgorod, some 35-40 kilometers away from Ukraine’s northeastern border.

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Video posted from multiple locations in the city registered at least two heavy blasts.

The Belgorod strike marked the first time since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 that Kyiv forces managed to hit an S-400 system in mainland Russia.

A Russian Defense Ministry statement said the Ukrainian attack on Belgorod was part of a wave of drone strikes with at least 31 aircraft in total sent against Russia’s Belgorod, Kursk and Bryansk regions. All Ukrainian drones were shot down, the Kremlin statement claimed.

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In recent weeks Ukrainian strike planners appear to have launched a systematic campaign of hunting down and destroying Russian S-400 systems in order to open gaps in Russian air defenses for follow-up cruise missile strikes.

On Sept. 14 the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) used modified anti-ship missiles to demolish an S-400 system near the city of Yevpatoria, in the Russia-occupied Ukrainian territory Crimea.

On Sept. 23 at least three Ukraine-operated Storm Shadow cruise missiles struck the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet (BSF), in the Crimean port city of Sevastopol. At least 60 senior Russian army and navy attending a meeting inside the building were killed or wounded, news reports said.

On Aug. 23 following a daring commando operation taking against a long-range surveillance radar the previous day, converted Ukrainian anti-ship missiles destroyed an S-400 system near the Crimean village of Olenivka.

On Sept. 13 British/French Storm Shadow missiles struck the BSF’s main port in Crimea, Sevastopol. A missile-carrying submarine and an assault ship were destroyed in the strikes, and damage to the BSF’s three main drydocks made them unsuitable for Russian navy use, for months at least.

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Russian official sources initially claimed the missiles mostly missed and that the two warships were almost unhurt but backpedaled on the narrative after photographs of devastating damage from internal explosions, in both warships, became public.

The S-400 is Russia’s top-of-the-line air defense system, according to Moscow official statements capable of detecting and shooting down any aircraft in air space out to a range of 400 kilometers.

Destruction of an S-400 deployed in Belgorod Region would likely open a gap in Russian western air space defenses for Ukrainian strikes deeper into Russia. Kyiv has promised France and Britain, the manufacturers of the Storm Shadow missile, that their weapon would not be used against targets inside mainland Russia.

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