The controversial leak of the classified Pentagon documents that has jolted military watchers with newer revelations has also brought out who attacked Russian A-50 AWACS aircraft at the Machulishchy Airbase in February.
A Russian A-50U Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft was destroyed in a drone attack at the Machulishchy air base in Belarus on February 26. Initial reports indicated that the Belarusian partisan group BYPOL, allied with Ukraine, carried out the attacks.
On its part, the group also claimed responsibility for the attack. EurAsian Times had previously reported that BYPOL used two drones in a “sabotage” operation and exploited the aircraft’s “large” size. Belarusian security agencies later found a bag with drone control panels, which confirmed the sabotage act.
However, in a new revelation by the leaked Pentagon documents, the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) was behind the attack on the A-50U, The Economist reported. Their agents stationed in Belarus apparently defied orders and attacked the Russian surveillance plane.
Ukraine’s most significant ally in the war, the United States, discovered that the SSU’s agents carried out the controversial attack through interceptions. This information about the ongoing Ukraine war was reportedly stored on a classified slide. However, the slide and other documents were leaked to the public on March 1.
On March 7, Alexander Lukashenko announced that Belarus had arrested a man and two others involved in an attempted sabotage of an A-50 aircraft at the Machulishchy airfield.
Without providing any concrete evidence, the Belarusian President claimed that Ukrainian and US intelligence officials oversaw the attack.
However, the Belarusian dissident group BYPOL took responsibility almost immediately. The group’s leader Alexander Azarov went so far as to say that the person(s) responsible for the attack had left Belarus and were safe. EurAsian Times could not independently confirm whether the SSU’s agents worked in tandem with the BYPOL endeavor.
The leaked Pentagon documents also stated that the SSU agents used a quadcopter drone to damage the Russian A-50 aircraft, which can fly as a mobile command center and is dubbed “flying radar” by Russian arms seller company Rostec. The documents also noted that the aircraft received only minor damage.
Even though Russia has accused Ukraine of conducting multiple attacks on Russian military assets outside of Ukraine’s borders, the leadership in Kyiv has refused to take accountability for these acts allegedly committed by it directly. After the Pentagon documents were leaked, the Security Service of Ukraine announced through a representative that it would be willing to speak “after Ukraine’s victory.”
Besides this attack on A-50, the document also revealed that Ukraine was responsible for an attack on a gas compressor station in the Moscow suburbs.
The attack on A-50 Mainstay eventually sent the aircraft to Taganrog in Russia for repairs. Most importantly, though, it exposed the vulnerability of Russia’s strategic military assets against what they call “Ukrainian terrorist attacks.”
What Happened After The Attack On The A-50?
Days after the attack, an intelligence update published by the UK on March 9 stated that Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko had admitted that one of Russia’s A-50U airborne early warning and control aircraft deployed in Belarus had been damaged.
The intel report stated that the Mainstay would be in a repair facility in Taganrog, Russia. Additionally, the transit flight was conducted at a lower altitude than usual, most likely due to damage to the pressurized cabin.
Not just that, it went on to say, “It is a realistic possibility that joint Russo-Belarusian air activity will now be forced to rely on ground control and fighter escort until another Mainstay can be deployed.”
However, the most intriguing section of the update was the claim made in the British intelligence assessment that the MiG-31K Foxhound fighter aircraft equipped to launch the AS-24 Killjoy air-launched ballistic missile was likely using the A-50 Mainstay to give them situational awareness.
Russian MiG-31K, which carries the Kinzhal or the AS-24 Killjoy hypersonic missiles, also operated from Machulishchy, where the A-50 was attacked. However, according to recent reports, the MiG-31K’s have left the base since and are now somewhere in Russia.
The attack on Russia’s prized possession, the A-50 Mainstay, was followed by a massive missile strike by Moscow’s troops in Ukraine. The troops in Moscow employed 81 missiles of several types, including Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, to strike targets inside Ukraine.
The attack also triggered concerns that Russia could attack Ukraine using Belarusian territory, as was the case on February 24 when Russian troops rolled into Ukraine from this direction.
The Ukrainian military has not ruled out such a possibility and continues to keep a hawk’s eye on the border with Belarus.
Moreover, Russia has strengthened its military relationship with Belarus and announced basing tactical nuclear weapons in Minsk. Russian defense minister announced this month that Belarus had received the Iskander-M operational-tactical missile system (OTRK) from Russia.
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