As part of broader efforts to neutralise Ukrainian defence industrial targets, the Russian military on the night of February 8 launched a major drone strike on the Ekvator Factory in the Mykolaiv region near the Black Sea. Among the facility’s primary products were light and lower medium weight drones being used by the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Footage of the strike showed multiple explosions on the factory floor, with the third explosion having been the most powerful and hitting the central and inner parts of the factory. Russian sources reported that these areas housed considerable quantities of military equipment, as well as jeeps with military license plates. Local Russian-aligned paramilitaries reported that alongside damage to the facility, the strike killed several foreign specialists who were supporting drone production efforts. Pressure on Ukraine’s defence sector has increased considerably as the primary financier of Kiev’s war effort, the United States, cut off funding from December 2023 amid growing domestic controversies over the effort’s immense costs. Ukrainian frontline units have been reported by a wide range of Western sources to be facing increasingly critical munitions shortages, with growing signs of an impending collapse on the frontlines.
Specialists from across the Western world have played growing roles in the Ukrainian war effort since the escalation of Russian-Ukrainian hostilities to full scale war in February 2022. This has only become more necessary as very large quantities of complex Western weaponry has been delivered to Ukraine, much of which takes several years of training to operate. Western contractors have played a significant role in operating this hardware, a key example has been the American MIM-104 Patriot air defence system, which Ukrainian personnel were considered unable to operate before mid-2024 at the earliest, but which began to operate in the country in early 2023. Active duty Western personnel have also played significant roles in the war effort, a notable example being the British Royal Marines deployed for combat operations near the frontlines since April 2022 at the latest. Russia appears to have particularly singled out foreign forces for targeting, and on the evening of January 16 were reported to have launched a missile strike targeting the headquarters of predominantly French European foreign fighters. Russian sources subsequently reported that the personnel targeted were military contractors, and that the strike caused at least 80 casualties at least 60 of which were killed. Russia has seen its ability to launch both missile and drone strikes expand considerably as industry has successfully increased output to several times pre-war levels.