1st Time In Ukraine War – Russia Uses Powerful Tu-22M Long-Range Bombers To ‘Carpet Bomb’ City Of Mariupol

Faced with stiff resistance in the port city of Mariupol, Russian forces have been shelling the city frequently. Most recently, they decimated the Azovstal steel factory, where the majority of Ukrainian soldiers were holed up.

On Thursdays, Russian Tu-22M bombers crossed into Ukrainian airspace and released unguided bombs on Ukrainian forces in the besieged port city, marking it the first time Moscow has used long-range bombers in the conflict.

A Russian drone recorded the bombing raid, which was also later confirmed by Ukrainian forces. Ukraine’s Defense Ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said that the long-range bombers are being employed to assault Mariupol.

A bundle of gravity bombs exploding on the campus of the Azovstal steel factory on the eastern outskirts of Mariupol is visible in drone footage. One of Europe’s largest metallurgical factories, the Azovstal iron and steel plant, has become a suitable stronghold for Ukrainian forces. 

The far-right Azov Battalion, the Ukrainian marine corps, and the local territorial defense force have hunkered down everywhere in Azovstal’s industrial complex.

It is worth remembering that the Azov battalion, the elimination of which is one of Moscow’s war aims, is strongly connected with Azovstal, and one of its founders, Andriy Biletskiy, has also referred to it as “the fortress of the Azov.”

Except for irregular, high-risk helicopter supply runs, the Azovstal defenders have been isolated and cut off from the rest of the Ukrainian military for more than six weeks. However, they have been able to repel a significantly greater number of Russian, Chechen, and separatist fighters. 

“Ukraine’s continued defense of Mariupol is currently tying down significant numbers of Russian troops and equipment,” the UK Defense Ministry stated. Following the withdrawal of Russian units from northern Ukraine earlier this month, the Kremlin has increased its operations in the east and south, notably near Mariupol.

File Image: TU-160M

“Russian air activity is expected to increase in the south and east of Ukraine in support of this activity,” the ministry explained. If Russian forces seize Mariupol, Moscow might open a corridor to Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, stripping the country of one of its important ports. Experts believe that Russian forces will most certainly capture Mariupol in the coming weeks.

What is Carpet Bombing?

Carpet bombing is a method that is usually employed as a last resort. Its goal is to demolish every part of a wide area. Article 51 of Geneva Protocol I, on the other hand, forbids bombing that regards several separated and different military targets positioned within a city as a single military target.

It is also generally understood that it is functionally illegal under the Law of Armed Conflict. It is not the same as precise bombardment guided by Special Operations Forces, which is the normal approach used by military forces today.

Visuals from Azovstal steelworks Mariupol – Twitter

Simply said, it is the act of spreading a carpet of explosives. In most cases, in a rectangular design. Using high explosives to completely saturate an area. Everything inside the region where the “carpet” is “laid” is doomed. Carpet bombing tactics have also been used by the United States in several military campaigns.

US’ former President Richard Nixon authorized carpet bombing in North Vietnam and Cambodia during the Vietnam War. Similar kinds of bombings were also believed to have been conducted during operations in Kuwait and Iraq.

Possible Reason Behind Russia’s Move

The latest strike is reported to be the first direct attack by a Russian long-range bomber. Before the Mariupol raid, the Tu-22Ms assaulted Ukraine while staying inside the Russian airspace, using long-range cruise missiles. 

However, flying heavy bombers within range of hostile air defenses might result in disastrous results. For instance, Georgian soldiers gunned down a Tu-22M during the Russian invasion of the Republic of Georgia in 2008, killing all four crew members.

Though Ukrainian air defenses have knocked down at least 71 Russian aircraft, according to open-source analysts. Furthermore, the air-defense system in Kyiv is reported to be largely operational.

Tupolev Tu-22M - Wikipedia
Tupolev Tu-22M – Wikipedia

Experts believe It’s conceivable that the Russians are running out of Precision-Guided Munitions and thus are eventually dropping bombs on the Mariupol. On March 25, a Pentagon official told reporters that the Kremlin’s arsenal of long-range precision weapons had been reduced by half. 

“Air-launched cruise missiles, in particular, are the thing that they’re the lowest on,” the unnamed official said. “And then we think that’s one of the reasons why we’re seeing them use more and more dumb bombs if you will.”

“Russia’s continued reliance on unguided bombs decreases their ability to discriminate when targeting and conducting strikes while greatly increasing the risk of further civilian casualties,” the UKDefense Ministry stated. Given the city’s significance, similar strikes by the Russian bombers may occur in the coming weeks as well.