Ukraine Releases 248 Russian Soldiers With The Mediation Of UAE; Moscow Says Not Averse To Swapping

248 Russian soldiers have returned from Ukrainian captivity thanks to the mediation of the UAE, the Ministry of Defense said.

“On January 3, as a result of a complex negotiation process with the territory controlled by the Kyiv regime, 248 Russian military personnel were handed back to Russia. The return from captivity was made possible thanks to the mediation of the humanitarian nature of the United Arab Emirates,” the statement said.

“The military transport aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces will deliver military personnel for treatment and rehabilitation in medical institutions of the Ministry of Defense,” the department added.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin emphasized that Russia was not against the exchange of prisoners with Ukraine with the mediation of Red Cross.

First French Systems Likely By Russian Hypersonic Missiles?

The Russian Military has reportedly struck Norwegian NASAMS and French Crotale-NG AD system at the Starokonstantinov airfield in the Khmelnytskyi region, the Russian Defense Ministry (RuMoD) said. Some experts speculate the Kinzhals were used.

“Russian Tactical aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, missile troops, and artillery weapons hit Norway-made NASAMS and French-made Crotale-NG air defense systems at the airfield Starokonstantinov in the Khmelnytskyi region, as well as aircraft equipment, flight navigation means, and aviation ammunition at the airfields of Kanatovo in the Kirovograd region and Dnepr, as well as Ukrainian manpower and military hardware in 127 areas,” the Russian state news agency TASS reported quoting the ministry.

This is the first time that a Crotale NG air defense missile system has been known to be destroyed in battle. According to information from the Russian Ministry, artillery, unmanned aerial vehicles, missile troops, and tactical aircraft all participated in the synchronized attack. Along with neutralizing the air defense systems, this operation damaged aviation ammo, flight navigation equipment, and aircraft equipment.

It is anticipated that these strikes will have a significant strategic effect on Ukraine’s air defense capability, which is already under strain, given Russia’s unrelenting air assaults. Moreover, rumors have it that the first French air defense system was obliterated using the Kinzhal hypersonic missile, whose use has been ramped up by the Russian Air Force in recent days.

Although it has not been officially confirmed whether the Kinzhals struck the French-origin Crotale deployed by Ukraine, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense (MoD) did confirm that the enemy used the Kinzhal aeroballistic missile on December 22. Military experts are keenly watching the developments and observed on social media that Kinzhal missiles likely singled out the NASAMS and Crotale air defense systems.

Military analyst and an avid watcher of the Russian military wrote on Platform X, “Putting one and one together, it appears RuAF MiG-31K launched two Kinzhals.” EurAsian Times could not independently confirm these claims at the time of writing of this report.

However, Russia has ramped up using its supposedly hypersonic Kinzhal hypersonic missiles launched using the MiG-31K tactical aircraft. Each time these hypersonic missile carriers take off, an air raid alarm is sounded throughout Europe.

The obliteration of Ukraine’s two cutting-edge air defense systems using a Kinzhal would be significant if authenticated. Earlier, the Russian MoD claimed on December 24 that its air defense systems shot down four Ukrainian military aircraft, just two days after the Ukrainian Air Force claimed to have shot down three Russian Su-34 fighters.

This is not the first time that Russian Kinzhal missiles have aimed at Ukraine’s air defense systems. Earlier this year, several reports indicated that Russian Air Force jets fired the hypersonic aeroballistic missile on Patriot missile defense systems. Although the attempt was successful since the Patriot survived, the Ukrainian air defense did receive significant damage.

The use of Kinzhals to destroy Crotane would signify the first time that the hypersonic weapon was used against any French weapon system in Ukraine.

One Of The Two Crotales Are Gone

The French Crotale, or the “Rattlesnake,” is an all-weather, short-range air defense missile system designed to intercept and destroy various airborne targets, such as drones, high-performance fighter jets flying at low altitudes, and aircraft.

Developed by Thomson CSF Matra, now called the Thales Group, the Crotale is considered one of the most successful surface-to-air missile designs ever built. A wide variety of its variants has been constructed and are in service in 15 countries.

The Crotale is designed as a point defense system to safeguard high-value targets, such as airfields, military bases, ammunition depots, etc.  The technology was initially intended to engage low-flying supersonic aircraft.

France confirmed the shipment of two Crotale NG anti-aircraft systems to Ukraine in November last year. The system was first seen operating in Ukraine only in March this year.

The press service of the Air Force Command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine released a four-minute-long video showing the Crotale NG air defense system in action in Ukraine. At the time, the video demonstrated how the crew of the Crotale NG air defense system, visually and with the aid of radar, tracks and launches an anti-aircraft missile to intercept an aerial object.

The recent attack on Ukrainian air defenses comes at a time when Russia is intensifying missile attacks on Ukraine. Based on previous instances, analysts have noted that the Russian air force would deliberately bomb Ukrainian air defenses that restrict the movement of its tactical aircraft by saturating the air.

The French Crotale NG (New Generation) missile system is a modernized version of the highly successful Crotale air defense system. It is effective against various aerial threats, such as airplanes, helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and precision-guided munitions. It is intended for short-to-medium-range air defense.

France crotale air defense system
France’s Crotale air defense system

The Thomson-Hotchkiss P4R 4×4 armored chassis is the foundation for the Transporter-Erector Launcher & Radar (TELAR) vehicle, outfitted with engagement radar and carrying four missiles. An optical aiming system is also included.

With a flight range of up to 11 kilometers and a 13-kilogram warhead, the new VT-1 (Vought-Thomson) missile is fitted to the Crotale NG. This missile can reach speeds of up to Mach 3.5, or 3.5 times the speed of sound. It has a radio command/electronic-optical guidance system with a maximum guidance range of 10 kilometers.

It is armed with a focused blast and fragmentation warhead initiated by a Radio-Frequency proximity fuse. The warhead provides a lethal blast radius of 8 meters, and the typical time-to-intercept from firing to airborne target destruction at a distance of 8 kilometers is 10.3 seconds.

The air defense system has a multi-sensor suite that includes passive electro-optics and radar with integrated Electronic Counter Countermeasures (ECCM) for fire control and monitoring. It allows the system to interact with targets in hostile settings like smoke and dust screens, nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare (NBC), as well as unfavorable electronic warfare situations.

To reduce response times, automated processes are used for all tasks, including target tracking and detection. Usually, it takes six seconds from initial detection until the missile launch. Three people operate the Crotale NG’s TELAR vehicle, which is armored to withstand small-arms fire and splinters from artillery shells.