Whoever is behind the drone strikes on Moscow, locals doubt they will change too many minds

Associate Editor Dom Nicholls shares his observations on the ongoing Ukrainian counter-offensive.

The point about minefields and these huge defences that Russia seems to have is that these are all defeatable. Mines are defeatable. You just need time to do it. You need time to concentrate on the device itself. You need time to think about how you’re going to push through the lines, and if you’ve got people shooting at you and loads of artillery raining down, you haven’t got a lot of time.

I think what Ukraine have been doing over the last few weeks, these long range precision strikes on ammunition dumps and logistic nodes, is now having an effect because there is not enough artillery fire coming down to stop that push down through Robotyne to squeeze the flanks.

The flanks are under extreme pressure, but Russia don’t seem to be able to muster enough combat power to close that salient and kill everyone inside it. So it’s just interesting when we look at these comments saying that the counter offensive isn’t going very well.

I think it’s all knitting together. They changed the tactics a few weeks ago, concentrated on these long range strikes, and I think that is now having an effect directly on the ground at the front line. 

Russia Correspondent Nataliya Vasilyeva speaks about the impact drone strikes are having on civilians in Moscow and shares her thoughts on whether the tactic may be effective or not.

What I heard from people is that whatever effect Ukraine is trying to achieve, it’s not working this way. On the one hand, it doesn’t produce any specific hatred towards Ukrainians, which to me is easy to understand because if you look at the geography of the drone strikes in Moscow, most of them actually hit opposition minded, liberal, well-off neighbourhoods, which have voted for the opposition for a long time. These would be the people who would be protesting when it was relatively safe to protest. These are the people who are still anti-war. It’s not likely that their opinion would change. 

However, I also heard other opinions saying that if someone was pro-war, or if someone was hesitant and just didn’t want to talk about it, didn’t want to think about it, these strikes are definitely unlikely to change their mind and cause them to look around and think, ‘Oh, what is happening to us?’ 

They would be more likely to jump to the conclusion that, ‘we’re being attacked’. And all of those months when the government was telling us this war is about defending you, or defending Russia, maybe they were right. That would be the conclusion that some people might jump to. 

I was very lucky to speak to one woman who both saw a drone strike outside her house and she also happens to be a psychotherapist who sees clients in Moscow, and she was able to talk about the mood and what people are struggling with. Apparently quite a lot of her clients are basically in denial, are trying to shut themselves out from reality and they just don’t want to talk about it, because obviously if you keep worrying about it you’re just going to go crazy. 

Listen to Ukraine: the Latest, The Telegraph’s daily podcast, using the audio player at the top of this article or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favourite podcast app.

War in Ukraine is reshaping our world. Every weekday The Telegraph’s top journalists analyse the invasion from all angles – military, humanitarian, political, economic, historical – and tell you what you need to know to stay updated.

With over 40 million downloads, our Ukraine: The Latest podcast is your go-to source for all the latest analysis, live reaction and correspondents reporting on the ground. We have been broadcasting ever since the full-scale invasion began.

Ukraine: The Latest’s regular contributors are:

David Knowles

David is Head of Audio Development at The Telegraph, where he has worked for nearly three years. He has reported from across Ukraine during the full-scale invasion. 

Dominic Nicholls

Dom is Associate Editor (Defence) at The Telegraph, having joined in 2018. He previously served for 23 years in the British Army, in tank and helicopter units. He had operational deployments in Iraq, Afghanistan and Northern Ireland. 

Francis Dearnley

Francis is assistant comment editor at The Telegraph. Prior to working as a journalist, he was chief of staff to the Chair of the Prime Minister’s Policy Board at the Houses of Parliament in London. He studied History at Cambridge University and on the podcast explores how the past shines a light on the latest diplomatic, political, and strategic developments.

They are also regularly joined by The Telegraph’s foreign correspondents around the world, including Joe Barnes (Brussels), Sophia Yan (China), Nataliya Vasilyeva (Russia), Roland Oliphant (Senior Reporter) and Colin Freeman (Reporter). In London, Venetia Rainey (Weekend Foreign Editor), Katie O’Neill (Assistant Foreign Editor), and Verity Bowman (News Reporter) also frequently appear to offer updates. 

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