Key developments on Feb. 2:
- Air Force: Ukraine damaged 3 Russian warplanes in Jan. 31 attack on Crimean airfield
- Defense Ministry official suspended in alleged connection to weapons procurement fraud case
- Russia condemns Ecuador's decision to send Russian military equipment to US for Ukraine
- Ukraine downs 11 of 24 Russian drones launched overnight
Ukraine damaged at least three Russian military aircraft at the Belbek military airfield near Sevastopol in occupied Crimea, Ukrainian Air Force spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat confirmed on Feb. 2.
Ihnat confirmed the attack that damaged aircraft also resulted in casualties among Russian military personnel.
In response to the attack, the Russian Defense Ministry had initially stated that it had shot down all of the missiles headed towards Crimea, claiming that there was "no damage to aviation equipment" at the Belbek airfield. Ihnat disputed Russia's claims.
In recent weeks, Ukraine has intensified its attacks on occupied Crimea, targeting Russian military assets in and around the Black Sea.
Ukraine's military intelligence (HUR) said on Feb. 1 that its operatives sunk a Russian Tarantul-class Ivanovets missile corvette from the Black Sea Fleet overnight off of occupied Crimea.
The alleged sinking of the Ivanovets comes just one month after the Russian landing ship Novocherkassk was hit by Ukrainian missiles while docked at Feodosia in occupied Crimea. Ukraine has previously targeted the strategic Belbek airfield with drone and missile attacks.
Top Defense Ministry official suspended in alleged connection to weapons procurement fraud case
A top Defense Ministry official was suspended, allegedly in connection with a massive weapons procurement fraud case announced last week by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), the ministry said on Feb. 2.
Toomas Nakhkur, the acting director of the Department of Military-Technical Policy, Development of Armaments and Military Equipment of Ukraine's Defense Ministry, was suspended at the request of Deputy Defense Minister Ivan Havryliuk.
The suspension was related to a corruption scheme revealed by the SBU on Jan. 27 that involved the procurement of almost 100,000 mortar shells, amounting to almost Hr 1.5 billion ($40 million).
The SBU said the investigation had "exposed officials of the Defense Ministry and managers of arms supplier Lviv Arsenal, who stole nearly Hr 1.5 billion in the purchase of shells."
Later the same day, Ukraine’s High Anti-Corruption Court ruled that Nakhkur handed over his international passport and wore an electronic bracelet as a restrictive measure, according to the Anti-Corruption Action Center.
The individuals implicated in the embezzlement include both former and current high-ranking officials from the Defense Ministry, as well as heads of associated companies. Five people were charged.
Since the beginning of the Russian full-scale invasion, Ukraine's Defense Ministry has been involved in several corruption scandals.
The two most notorious scandals, one regarding inflated prices for food supplies and the other connected to low-quality winter jackets, prompted the dismissal of former Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov.
Russia condemns Ecuador's decision to send Russian military equipment to US for Ukraine
Russia's foreign ministry condemned the decision of Ecuador to hand over old Russian-made military hardware from its stocks to the U.S. for use in Ukraine, Russian state-controlled news agency RIA Novosti reported on Feb. 2.
Russia has long enjoyed strong influence in Latin America and has launched extensive disinformation campaigns about its war against Ukraine. Ukraine has recently intensified its diplomatic efforts to increase support for Kyiv in the region.
The Ecuadorian government announced last month that it would send what it called "Ukrainian and Russian scrap metal" to the U.S. in exchange for modern equipment worth $200 million, according to Reuters.
Washington reportedly plans to transfer the arms received from Ecuador to Ukraine to help the country in its fight against Russian invading forces.
Ecuadorian authorities said, as cited by Reuters, that Moscow had previously warned them against handing over the equipment, but they had the right to do it anyway.
Ukraine downs 11 of 24 Russian drones launched overnight
Ukrainian air defense destroyed 11 of the 24 Shahed-type drones Russia launched from Primorsko-Akhtarsk in Russia and from Chauda in Russian-occupied Crimea, the Air Force reported on Feb. 2.
Since the start of the full-scale war, the Russian military has been using Crimea and other occupied Ukrainian territories to launch missiles and other weapons against Ukraine.
Ukraine’s Air Force reported that at least seven Russian drones failed to reach their targets and were lost in the area.
Some 11 Russian drones were intercepted over Dnipropetrovsk, Kherson, Kirovohrad, and Kharkiv oblasts overnight. Reportedly, most of them targeted critical infrastructure in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast.
The Russian military attacked the Kryvyi Rih district in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast with three drones, causing a power outage that affected thousands of consumers, as well as two mines, Governor Serhii Lysak said.
All the 113 miners who were trapped underground had been brought to the surface, said Oleksandr Vilkul, the head of the Kryvyi Rih defense council.