Russia Says It Took Out French Mercenaries In Targeted Missile Strike On Ukraine


Russia’s defense ministry (MoD) said Wednesday the military has conducted precision strikes against a Ukrainian position which had a unit of ‘foreign fighters’ present. Dozens were killed, claim the Russian statements.

Specifically the MoD statement claimed that a group of French fighters were taken out in the long-range missile strike on the northeastern city of Kharkiv. “On the evening of 16 January, the armed forces of the Russian Federation carried out a precision strike on a temporary deployment point of foreign militants in the city of Kharkiv, the core of which were French mercenaries,” it said.

Ukraine acknowledged the large-scale missile strike on Kharkiv, which is Ukraine’s second largest city, but said nothing about foreign fighters. Moscow also did not provide proof of the MoD claims to have destroyed a French mercenary position.

Ukrainian sources did cite that “17 people were injured, including two critically, after Russia used S-300 missiles in two strikes on Kharkiv overnight on Jan. 16,” according to a statement of oblast governor Oleh Synehubov on Telegram. Over a dozen of the wounded remain hospitalized. Follow-up reporting indicated at least one death, and about 20 buildings destroyed or badly damaged in the attack.

The AFP writes of the Russian military statement, “The ministry claimed to have killed dozens of foreign militants in the attack and injured many more but did not provide evidence.”

Russia has long warned that external countries supplying Ukraine’s military would be treated as active participants in the war. More recently, the Kremlin has warned the West against activities like deepened intelligence-sharing with Kiev, which has been enough to raise Russian suspicions of a Western ‘boots in the ground’ type of escalation

Moscow appears to be responding to new French pledges of long-range missiles for Ukraine

French President Emmanuel Macron announced on January 16, 2024, that France is set to deliver a new round of weapons in support of Ukraine. The delivery includes 40 long-range SCALP-EG missiles and “hundreds of bombs”

The SCALP-EG/Storm Shadow cruise missile is a British-French weapon developed in the 1990s by Matra and British Aerospace and is now manufactured by the European missile maker MBDA. This weapon can strike targets at a radius of up to 560 kilometers (350 miles).   

SCALP Storm Shadow cruise missile, via AeroTime

The United Kingdom has also inked a new major security deal with Ukraine, and along with France it has been supplying long-rage missile systems to Ukraine’s military.

Even though Washington has backed off of it’s financial and arms support to Kiev, after Congress has stalled Biden’s foreign defense funding request, it appears France, the UK, and other European powers are seeking to step up. But Russia is now seeking to enforce it’s ‘red lines’ and halt this trend through escalation targeting foreign mercenaries, apparently.

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