The Russian government is installing missile defense systems in Moscow in an attempt to convince its citizens that Ukraine represents a threat to the motherland, according to the Institute of the Study of War (ISW).
Trees in “protected nature zones” of the Russian capital are being chopped down to make way for the defense systems, according to an ISW report published Wednesday night. The effort to reportedly frame Ukraine as an “existential” threat to Russian domestic security has apparently sparked some anger among residents.
“Continued Russian efforts to portray the war in Ukraine as existential to Russian domestic security by establishing additional air defense installations in areas that will never see hostilities is reportedly sparking internal backlash,” the ISW said.
The U.S.-based think tank went on to cite an article from the independent Russian news website The Insider, which reported earlier this week on the effort to install S-400 air defense systems in residential areas of Moscow.
An S-400 missile air defense system is pictured during a “Victory Day” parade in Moscow, Russia, on May 9, 2022. The Russian military has reportedly been installing the defense systems in residential areas of Moscow in recent months, outraging residents by cutting down trees in protected “nature zones.”
The Insider article includes photos of defense systems apparently being installed in an area surrounded by residential buildings in January. The installation reportedly “caused outrage among environmentalists and local residents, because this site belongs to a specially protected natural area.”
The article notes that a pro-Kremlin Telegram channel had insisted that claims of the defense system being installed in the neighborhood were “fake,” with the photos instead showing the system being stored in a “parking lot” for transport to another area.
However, four out of nine system launchers were later put into a vertical “combat position”—something that would not happen if they were merely being stored, according to The Insider.
The “greatest environmental damage” to Moscow came with the installation of an unknown defense facility in the Kuryanovo micro-district, where the forest reportedly “began to be actively destroyed on January 25.”
Residents of Moscow are reportedly hesitant to mention the destruction online over fears that they could be prosecuted under Russian laws that prohibit so-called “fake news.”
Meanwhile, ISW said that an effort to use utility funds to install air defense systems for Ukrainian “terrorist attacks” was scrapped this week due to public outrage in the Bryansk Oblast, about 300 miles southwest of Moscow.
Local lawmakers reportedly claimed that “hackers” had somehow planted the plan on a government website after backlash forced its cancellation.
“The Bryansk Oblast Duma reported on March 9 that Russian State Duma Defense Committee Head Andrey Kartapolov proposed using public utilities payments to fund the installation of air defense systems to defend against ‘terrorist attacks,'” the ISW report stated.
“The Bryansk Oblast Duma later removed this initiative from its website after the initiative garnered public attention on March 15 and blamed its publication on unspecified hackers,” it continued.
Pantsir mobile air defense systems have also been spotted in central Moscow, although there has been no indication that Ukraine intends to launch a direct attack on the Russian capital.
Last week, Russia launched a massive air attack on Ukraine, with six high-tech “Kinzhal” hypersonic missiles being launched among 81 total missiles.