Melnyk: the enemy is trying to overburden our air defence and is ready to sacrifice its territories. Interview

June 14, 2023

The ongoing missile attacks on Ukrainian cities and villages by the Russian occupiers pursue several goals, one of which is to overburden our air defences. Trying to disrupt the counteroffensive of the AFU, the aggressor bets on air power, and therefore tries to stick Ukraine's anti-aircraft capabilities. Because of these attacks, Ukrainian air defence systems cannot be deployed to the front line to strengthen our defenders.

At the same time, the Russian terrorists face a shortage of missiles, due to which they have to use missiles intended for coastal defence to attack ground targets. As the events near the Russian border with Ukraine have shown, the Kremlin is ready to sacrifice its territories and people in order to keep pieces of Ukrainian land under control, said the co-director of foreign policy programmes, coordinator of international projects of Razumkov Centre, military expert Oleksiy Melnyk in an exclusive interview with OBOZREVATEL.

— The head of the UK defence committee, Tobias Ellwood, said that a counteroffensive of the AFU is expected in the coming days. According to his estimates, the Ukrainian army is currently conducting reconnaissance and shaping operations, while the main forces are still in reserves. He also urges all those who believe that Ukraine will enter the battle and everything will end very quickly to be cautious. How do you assess the current stage of the war? Do you agree with Ellwood's assessment?

— Yes, I fully agree with it. I can’t add anything. Excellent analysis, excellent assessment of the situation.

— Regarding what the enemy is doing in a situation where he expects our counterattack from day to day. On June 13, there were new attacks by the Russian occupiers on our country: Kryvyi Rih and the capital were attacked again. At the same time, according to the Center of National Resistance, Russia deployed an anti-ship missile system "Bal" in Bryansk oblast. Does this indicate that the occupiers are running out of missiles designed for attacking ground targets?

— If we try to reveal the intentions of the enemy, why the attacks on Kyiv and other civilian objects on the territory of Ukraine continue, one of the reasons or one of the possible goals of the Russians is to tie air defence assets that are currently deployed to cover these cities, civilian objects, in order not to let Ukraine strengthen the offensive forces on the front line with modern Western air defence systems.

There are alarming reports for us that Russia is intensively using aircraft to attack the advancing Ukrainian forces. It may be not good but not entirely surprising, they have managed to learn some lessons from the previous experience. They also have guided aerial bombs to deliver strikes from outside the air defence zone.

The enemy bets on air power. For the air force to be efficient there, they need to deprive Ukraine of the ability to redeploy air defence systems to reinforce frontline areas. This is one of their goals, on top of what we know — attempts to terrorize the population, to influence the decisions of the country's political leadership. All this is in place.

As for the redeployment of coastal defence batteries, yes, this shows that Russia has a lack, if not hunger, of resources, which they are trying to compensate with these coastal defence missiles that are designed to attack naval targets.

This is not the first such case. There have already been such attacks from the territory of Crimea. These missiles have a smaller warhead, perhaps less accuracy, but in any case they are deadly and the hitting range, especially of modified missiles, allows Russia to take advantage of firing from areas that are safe for them.

One more conclusion can be made here. Now Russia is exposing other directions. We can see this from weakening the defence of the Black Sea coast and even remote areas. This may also confirm that units are being redeployed from almost all over Russia, that is, Russia remains undefended in the east and north.

I would also mention the events in the border areas of Russian Belgorod and Kursk oblasts, where the hopes of many experts that Russia will defend its territory and redeploy forces from the front did not come true. That is, Russia is ready to sacrifice its territories, settlements and people for conquering or keeping pieces of occupied lands in Ukraine.

— Putin announced that he intends to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus in July. Do you think that Lukashenka's illness can affect these processes? For example, if he quits. How do you assess the danger of deployment of nuclear weapons in Belarus?

— In my opinion, the decision to deploy tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus in combination with the conversion of Belarusian aircraft, the training of Belarusian flight and ground crews on missile systems hardly makes any military sense. This is a component of nuclear blackmail. It doesn't matter how many warheads are dropped because nuclear weapons, especially tactical, have a deterrent power. The consequences may be different, but they are unlikely to be favourable for Russia, because Russia thereby violates the international regimes of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, as it will be the deployment on the territory of a non-nuclear state.

But this is a question for other countries that legitimately possess nuclear weapons and are interested in observing these agreements. Here, unfortunately, the prospects are not rosy, considering the general state of the UN and its Security Council, where these countries are permanent members.

As for the possible scenarios of Lukashenka's epicrisis, there are a lot of speculations. Obviously, there are some reasons for this. There is also video evidence from which we can clearly see that his health is not good.

In any case, of physical death or political death — the inability of Lukashenka to fulfil his duties will have serious consequences, primarily domestic, for Belarus. This is also a natural phenomenon for authoritarian regimes. After that, there will be a certain power vacuum and internal struggle.

But in this case, unlike the previous instances of different countries, including the USSR, the Russian factor will still be the most powerful, for Russia to be able to interfere in these domestic political events in Belarus.

At first glance, it looks like that, since Putin has his agents there to control the Belarusian power structures. The Kremlin will quickly "impose order" there and install a governor to the Kremlin’s liking. But I would not hurry to make such conclusions. As we can see, not all special operations have been successful recently. So, there is a possibility that the Belarusian scenario of the Kremlin will fail.


Oleksiy Melnyk

Co-Director, Foreign Relations and International Security Programmes, Coordinator of International Projects

Born in 1962 in Khmelnytsty Rgn


Royal College of Defence Studies, London, UK (2007)

Air Field Operations Officer School, Biloxy, MS, US (2001)

Squadron Officer School, Montgomery, AL, US (1994)

Defence Language Institute, San Antonio, TX, US (1994)

Chernihiv Higher Military Air Force Academy, Ukraine (1984)


1980 – 2001 — Air Force Active Service (Cadet, Instructor Pilot, Flight Commander, Squadron Commander, Deputy Air Force Base Commander, Participant of two UN peacekeeping operations, Lt.Colonel (Ret)

2001 – 2004 — Razumkov Centre

2004 – 2005 — State Company Ukroboronservice

2005 – 2008 — Ministry of Defence of Ukraine, Head Organisational and Analytical Division — First Assistant to Minister of Defence

(044) 201-11-95