Russia has been frustrated and simply unable to make the gains it anticipated due to Ukraine’s determined resistance. As a result, attacking Russian forces are making what the Pentagon believes is a deliberate tactical shift toward the use of long-range fires, artillery, cruise missiles, and rockets. “They continue to get frustrated, they continue to rely now more on what we would call long-range fires,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters on March 8.
A shift toward the use of long-range, ground-fired weapons against cities that the Russian forces have yet to control and identify has led to the killing of children and non-combatants. It would appear that the Russians are simply struggling to make major progress in the north, where they have been attempting to close in on Kyiv. Pentagon leaders have been clear that they believe these unanticipated problems are due to logistical challenges, low troop morale, ineffective combat tactics, and the sheer intensity of Ukraine’s effective use of anti-armor weapons.
Kirby said that when “You’re relying on long-range fires … you're going to cause more damage, and you're going to kill more people and injure more people. And so that's what we think is happening.”
The long-range weapons being used by Russia, including the precision-guided Kalibr missile, have targeted residential areas. The Associated Press reported that Russian forces have also fired Kalibr missiles at government buildings and military targets in Kharkiv. As a precision-guided weapon, the Kalibr missile is entirely capable of striking targets without causing massive amounts of damage to civilians and residential areas. This technological fact supports claims that the Russian military is intentionally targeting civilians and residential areas.
The Russians are also using larger Iskander missiles, which have a larger conventional warhead than Kalibrs and travel as far as 300 miles. The Iskander can fire cluster munitions, high-explosive-fragmentation warheads, and bunker busters. A range of 300 miles enables the Iskander to target urban areas at great standoff distances, something that allows Russian forces to bombard residential areas from safer distances.
Kris Osborn is the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master's Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.