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View after an alleged drone attack on an oil refinery in Ryazan Oblast on March 13, 2024. (Screenshot / Telegram)
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Russian forces struggle to successfully deploy air defense systems against Ukrainian drone strikes and have even failed to protect important targets in "well-defended areas" inside Russia, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in its March 30 report.

Ukraine intensified drone attacks on Russian oil refineries in February and March, disrupting a substantial percentage of the country's refinery capacity.

"Russian forces appear to struggle with properly deploying short-range air defense systems along expected flight vectors for Ukrainian drones, and the Russian military appears to have even failed to cover important potential targets in reportedly well-defended areas within Russia," the ISW said.

Russia is now forming mobile fire groups to defend against Ukrainian drones, according to Russian state media.

According to the ISW, the Russian military "will likely struggle to field these groups at the required scale in the near term."

Ukraine began deploying tactical mobile fire groups at scale to mitigate Russia's Shahed drone attacks in spring of 2023, but Russia faces drone threats against a much larger territory, including targets in occupied Ukrainian territory and throughout Russia.

"(I)t is unclear if these mobile groups will be able to defend the extent of territory that Ukrainian drones target," analysts said.

The ISW predicted that the mobile groups would be more effective in occupied Ukrainian regions than within Russia. Analysts also said the creation of the groups may point to vulnerabilities in Russia's air defense.

"The formation of the mobile fire groups indicates that Russia may be unable to deploy conventional air defense systems, such as Pantsir-S1 or S-300 /400 systems, to all critical facilities within western Russia," the ISW said.

President Volodomyr Zelensky said in an interview with the Washington Post on March 29 that Ukrainian forces will continue to strike Russian oil refineries, which are legitimiate military targets, using Ukrainian weapons.

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