“Rocket forces, unmanned aerial vehicle artillery of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation hit the ammunition depots of the 31st mechanized brigade and the 26th artillery brigade of Ukraine, a French-made anti-aircraft missile system SAMP-T, a radar station of the system S-300 anti-aircraft missile…..”
The Russian Defense Ministry's official war bulletin announced on the afternoon of January 24 that it had destroyed a SAMP/T air defense system delivered to Kiev last year by Italy and France. The news was picked up by the TASS agency and then included in the Russian weekly defense bulletin on January 26, in which the list of losses inflicted on the Ukrainian Armed Forces between January 20 and 26, “four anti-aircraft missile launchers: two US Patriots and a French” includes SAMP/T and a launch vehicle of the German IRIS/T system, as well as 3 electronic warfare stations, a radar of the S-300 anti-aircraft system and 6 ammunition depots. According to Russian military sources, successes were achieved through the use of combat aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles and artillery.”
The SAMP/T is one of the protagonists of the tensions between France and Russia, which have escalated in the last ten days after Russia claimed to have killed dozens of French “mercenaries” (60 dead and 20 injured) in the destruction of a hotel used as Kharkiv barracks.
Paris denied using mercenaries, but Russia later accused the Americans or French of helping the Ukrainians shoot down the Il-76 transport plane (pictured above) near Belgorod on January 24, which Moscow and Vladimir Putin said was the 65th anniversary of the attack Ukrainian prisoners transported to be exchanged for Russian soldiers captured by Kiev forces.
The possible use of the SAMP/T missiles to shoot down the cargo plane is supported by the range required to reach the aircraft from Ukrainian territory, a distance that would require the use of SAMP/T or Patriot Aster 30 missiles would have required and has In Russia there was intense speculation about France's desire to avenge the January 17 rocket attack in Kharkiv and the massacre of the volunteers who fought alongside the Ukrainians, of whom Moscow published a list of names, which defined Paris as wrong.
According to Telegram broadcaster Intel Slava Z, in recent weeks in January the Russians attacked several hotels in Kharkiv that also housed groups of volunteers from Sweden, Denmark, Lithuania and Estonia, killing two German spy agents.
The French Defense Ministry on January 26 described as “disinformation” the news that the SAMP/T air defense system was responsible for shooting down the transport plane in the Russian skies over Belgorod. “Relevant state services have recognized and are monitoring Russia’s coordinated maneuver, including by pro-Russian information networks and state media such as Sputnik News, RT and RIA Novosti, to spread and amplify this false information,” he said in a statement from the ministry.
Since the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine, France has been “the target of a Russian disinformation campaign,” which “intensified” in mid-January after “Emmanuel Macron’s reaffirmation of (French) support for Ukraine,” we read in the note. “We cannot let Russia win,” said the French president, announcing new arms deliveries to Kiev.
The day after these statements, on January 17, the Russian Defense Ministry said it had attacked a building in Kharkiv that served as a “temporary operational zone for mercenaries, most of whom were French citizens.” Sixty fighters were “eliminated” and 20 were injured, Moscow said. The “Russian disinformation maneuver” continued on Monday with the dissemination of “lists of suspected French mercenaries killed in this attack on Russian Telegram channels,” knowing that “some of these lists were already in 2022, in the first weeks of conflict, had been spread,” explains the French Ministry of Defense.
On Wednesday, the “campaign” continued with Sputnik International’s announcement of the destruction of a French-Italian SAMP-T surface-to-air system delivered to Ukraine. “However, none of this information is confirmed by France,” emphasizes the Ministry of Defense. “In view of the intensification of French military aid to Ukraine, we expect a continuation of this disinformation maneuver by Russia: we condemn it and strengthen our system for monitoring these manipulations,” warned Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu.
It is difficult to say whether the “fake news” about the destroyed SAMP/T is real, but it was certainly not spread by Sputnik, which limited itself to quoting the official war bulletin of the Russian Ministry of Defense. This does not mean that the destruction of the only SAMP/T system (or a single launch vehicle) supplied by Italy and France is confirmed, but it is certain that this was claimed twice by official military sources in Moscow. While France has denied this, Italian sources did not comment on the news of the SAMP/T's destruction.
The tug of war between Russia and France also concerns the new military supplies to Ukraine granted and promised by Emmanuel Macron, such as the SCALP cruise missiles from the Ukrainian Su-24 aircraft (many have been shot down, especially in the last few days). According to the bulletins, Russians, but also others, had hit targets in Crimea in recent weeks) and the Arment Air-Sol Modulaire (AASM) or Highly Agile Modular Munition Extended Range glide bombs (HAMMER – in the photo below), which Paris will deliver to the Ukrainian Air Force in 50 copies per month from February.
According to various sources, Russian attacks since the beginning of the year have focused on specific targets such as ammunition depots in the Ukrainian hinterland, industrial facilities for war production and, above all, anti-aircraft missile batteries (according to the newspaper Mysl Polska). In the January 2 attacks in Kiev alone, 2 NASAMS systems were hit with Khinzal hypersonic missiles, which are increasingly struggling to cover only part of the national airspace.
Former Ukrainian MP Igor Mosiychuk admitted that Russian missile attacks caused several casualties at defense enterprises in Kiev, the Artyom plant and the Luch Design Bureau. This news was confirmed in the following days by another former MP, Igor Lutsenko.
Photo – French Ministry of Defense, Italian Army, TASS and SAGEM