Hundreds of Russian troops gathered. Then four ATACMS missiles struck.

Kuban, a settlement in Luhansk Oblast in eastern Ukraine, is 60 miles from the front line in Russia's broader 27-month war on Ukraine. This area was normally outside the range of most anti-personnel weapons in Ukraine, and was fairly safe for the Russian occupiers.

This helps explain why, on or just before Wednesday, hundreds of Russian troops gathered in the open in a field near the Kuban, apparently for training.

The problem for the Russians is the Army's tactical missile system: a US-made, precision-guided ballistic missile that, depending on the model, has a range of up to 190 miles and scatters at least hundreds, or nearly a thousand, of grenades. – The size of the small ammunition.

While the Russians were walking around in broad daylight in that field outside the Kuban, and a Ukrainian drone Observed high overheadFour of the two-ton ATACMS missiles fell. One failed to explode. The other three bombs exploded, scattering their deadly submunitions. Turn every missile Spacious area of ​​up to 2.5 acres To an almost inescapable killing zone.

One of the ATACMS systems exploded directly above a crowd of about 116 unprotected Russians. everyone of Russians probably died in the rain of submunitions, according to Institute for the Study of War in Washington, DC

Wednesday's strike was perhaps one of the bloodiest in the wider war. This indicates poor planning on the part of Russian leaders. They must have known that such a strike had recently become possible, or even possible. Acquiring ATACMS systems from the United States, and then directing them toward the Russian military's vulnerable rear area, has been one of Ukraine's top military priorities in recent months.

The United States responded late to repeated Ukrainian requests for powerful missiles.

Shortly before the US Congress finally overcame resistance from a small number of Russia-friendly Republican lawmakers and approved $61 billion in new US aid to Ukraine late last month, President Joe Biden's administration scaled back $300 million in savings from a previously approved arms contract. . The administration mediated on behalf of Ukraine.

The White House spent much of that $300 million on an emergency shipment of ATACMS. The total number of missiles exceeded 100 according to New York times. When the White House sent another $1 billion worth of weapons to Ukraine the day after Congress finally approved new funding, the shipment may have contained additional ATACMS systems.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told lawmakers last week that the Pentagon would donate to Ukraine “a lot [ATACMS] “We can.” There are thousands of missiles in the American arsenal. Many of them will soon expire as rocket fuel deteriorates, which could motivate Americans to abandon them fast.

The Russians knew ATACMS was coming. They had ample warning that the Ukrainians would fire on the most vulnerable concentrations of Russian forces, including training areas. After all, Ukrainian crews firing shorter-range missiles targeted large groups of Russian trainees at least three times during a horrific week in February, reportedly killing more than a hundred people.

When the Ukrainians obtained the first small batch of ATACMS systems last fall, they immediately dropped missiles on two Russian airfields, damaging or destroying as many as 20 helicopters. And when the first new A batch of missiles arrived, apparently in early April, and Ukrainian crews wasted no time bombing Russia's valuable S-400 air defense battery, destroying at least four of its launchers.

The attack on the S-400 system was a reminder that no Russian air defenses could reliably shoot down an incoming ATACMS. The implication was clear: as of April, any exposed Russian within 190 miles of the front line was vulnerable to the growing Ukrainian arsenal of ATACMS missiles.

Ignoring the danger, the Russians gathered in the open near the Kuban, and later more than a hundred of them died when ATACMS missiles were fired.

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1. J.B. Schneider:

2. Def Mon:

3. Institute for the Study of War:

4. New York times:

5. PBS News Hour:

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