Spy Balloons Are Back: Russia Says it is Shooting Down Ukrainian ‘Terrorism’ Balloons

IN FLIGHT - FEBRUARY 3: In this handout image provided by the Department of Defense, a U.S
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From drones to trench warfare, Ukraine is the theater where the latest military trends from around the world are played out, so it stands to reason Kyiv has allegedly launched military balloons, a throwback to the Chinese spy balloons that caused such conniptions in the United States in 2023.

Cheap, and extremely long range: large balloons could be a valuable vector for Kyiv’s ongoing attempts to strike Russia’s economy to undermine its invasion of Ukraine. Now Russia says it is shooting down quantities of Ukrainian balloons over its territory, classifying both military “terrorism” balloons allegedly carrying explosives, and what may be observation platforms or decoys described as “Ukrainian weather balloons”.

Statements from Kremlin-controlled Russian state media asserts the country’s armed forces shot down at least eight “Ukrainian balloons” in three days this week. Those incidents include “weather balloon” wreckage in the Lipetsk region approximately 230 miles north east of Ukraine’s Kharkiv and a “Ukrainian small-size balloon” shot down in the Kursk region, which is south of Moscow and borders Ukraine.

Russia decried what it called “a terrorist attack using a small-size balloon”.

While described officially a ‘weather balloons’, the Associated Press cites Russian domestic media as claiming these two balloons actually carried “mortar mines”, similar munitions to those carried by Ukrainian FPV drones in frontline strikes. The service notes: “Ukrainian balloons are equipped with a GPS module and carry explosives. They reportedly are harder to detect and could carry a bigger payload than more common small drones.”

If correct, the balloons seem to take the role of a modernised incendiary balloon as deployed by Imperial Japan against the United States in the Second World War.

The following day on the 17th, a further weather balloon was “neutralised” by the Russian armed forces in the Kaluga region south west of Moscow, it was said. Again underlining the lighter-than-air craft may have been packing more than just meteorological equipment, the Kremlin relayed that nearby houses had to be evacuated from the crash-site.

Then on the 18th, alleged balloon incursions stepped up again, with five shot down during a larger barrage of Ukrainian missiles and drones launched against the Russian mainland. Per the Russian state’s claims, two balloons were shot down over Belgorod and three in Voronezh along the border with Ukraine.

Ukraine has accused Russia of deploying balloons against it in the recent past as well.

The apparent use of military bomb balloons emerging in the Ukraine war is only the latest instance of the combatants using novel or unconventional technology and strategy to eke out an advantage in the conflict. While Russia’s invasion has come to be known for the preponderance of drone warfare, it has also seen widespread deployment of gliding bombs and trench warfare, adding to the distinct character of the conflict.

Military ballooning, last recognised by the public as an instrument of warfare during the world wars burst back into the collective consciousness last year after a series of deployments, dubbed “spy balloons” over the United States, and blamed on China.

Beijing dismissed the claims, but the greatest controversy perhaps was over the apparent reluctance of the U.S. government to shoot down the mystery craft, even as the crossed over sensitive military sites.


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