Ukraine has gained its longest-range capability yet from its Western backers and has already been making use of its newly-provided Storm Shadow cruise missiles, according to Moscow.
On Thursday, the U.K. confirmed it was sending Storm Shadow missiles to Ukraine. British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told lawmakers that the long-range missiles “are now going into, or are in, the country itself.”
However, the British government did not confirm how many missiles it has provided to Kyiv.
“Russia must recognize that its actions alone have led to such systems being provided to Ukraine,” Wallace told the British Parliament. The U.K. had previously indicated they were willing to send longer-range weapons.
Russian politician and presidential envoy to Crimea, Georgiy Muradov, then told Russian state media that the U.K. could become “a devastated territory” after giving Ukraine long-range strike capabilities. Ahead of the announcement, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov had said sending Storm Shadow missiles “will demand an appropriate response from our military.”
On Saturday, Russia’s Defense Ministry said the long-range cruise missiles had been used on Friday to strike targets in the eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk, “despite statements from London that these weapons would not be used against civilian targets.”
Luhansk is located in the contested Donbas area of Ukraine, which was illegally annexed by Russia in September 2022. Moscow’s claim to this territory is not recognized by the international community.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesperson Lieutenant-General Igor Konashenkov said Russian forces had shot down the Su-24 jet that it said had launched the missiles, as well as the MiG-29 fighter aircraft working alongside, according to Russian state media.
Newsweek has reached out to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry for comment via email.
The reports sparked “heightened Russian anxiety about potential Ukrainian abilities to target Russian logistics,” the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War think tank said on Saturday. However, the think tank said it had not seen proof that Kyiv has used Storm Shadow missiles against Russian forces in Ukraine.
Kyiv’s Western allies have been hesitant to provide Ukraine with weapons with a range to strike within Russian territory. The U.S. has provided weapons such as HIMARS, or High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, extended-range versions of the Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) guidance systems and Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bombs (GLSDBs), but these have a shorter range than the air-launched Storm Shadow missiles.
When used alongside weapons such as the JDAMs and HIMARS, the Storm Shadow means Russia will “have to think much more deeply about the range at which the Ukrainians can strike back against them,” David Jordan, co-director of the Freeman Air and Space Institute at King’s College London, told Newsweek on Thursday.
There is some debate around the true range of Storm Shadow missiles, Jordan said, although the missiles’ manufacturer, MBDA Missile Systems, put the range at over 155 miles, or around 250 kilometers.
The U.S.-provided HIMARS, which were lauded by Ukraine’s authorities when they began to arrive in Ukraine last year, have hit targets at a distance of around 80 kilometers, or 50 miles. They were hailed as “powerful tools” by Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov in June last year.
Storm Shadow missiles have a slightly shorter range than the American long-range guided ATACMS, or Army Tactical Missile Systems, which can reach up to 186 miles, or 300 kilometers, according to manufacturers Lockheed Martin. However, the U.S. has not supplied missiles of this range.
Jordan Cohen, policy analyst at the Cato Institute, previously told Newsweek that the Storm Shadow missiles “definitely make a huge impact, almost as much as ATACMS.”
Military experts have told Newsweek that the Storm Shadow missiles will be particularly useful for Ukraine to target command centers, ammunition storage facilities, and supply lines.
It is “highly likely that Ukrainian commanders will have excellent information on where to target their new missiles for maximum effect,” military expert David Hambling previously told Newsweek.