For the first time since the Feb.24 invasion, it's being widely reported that the Russian military has struck Ukrainian targets using long-range bombers. Ukrainian defense ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said Friday that bombs were dropped by Tu-22M3 aircraft over positions in the port city of Mariupol.
"On April 14, two Russian strategic heavy bombers Tu-95/-160 have launched cruise missiles hitting the territory of Ukraine from Krasnodar Krai of Russian Federation airspace," he said. "Also for the first time from the start of the armed aggression bombs were dropped by a long-range bombers Tu-22M3. This airstrike took place, hitting Mariupol."
It's believed Russian forces are attempting to secure a corridor that stretches from Mariupol to the Crimean Peninsula as the war for the Donbas region heats up. Motuzyanyk described that there are still major street battles happening in and near Mariupol, which before the war had nearly 500,000 people.
The use of long-range bombers could signal the start of a new Russian strategy. The Kremlin has recently admitted it's suffered bigger than expected casualties, with many analysts pointing out that so far Russia has been restrained when it comes to major bombing raids on Ukrainian cities.
It also became evident early on that Russia's military appeared to be restraining its use of airpower, resulting in many instances of unprotected tank convoys being ambushed with often foreign-supplied anti-tank missiles, such as the Javelin.
The timing of this latest development is interesting also given the Thursday sinking of the Moskva cruiser off Odessa's coast, which was considered the Russian Navy's flagship in the Black Sea. It was reportedly hit by a pair of Neptune anti-ship missiles, and Ukraine is celebrating it as a major victory. This as Russia claimed the ship was destroyed by accidental fire which ignited munitions.
The warship's sinking is likely to mark a significant shift for the Kremlin. After suffering such major losses, Russia has more incentive to practice less restraint - which is perhaps why long-rage bombers are apparently now in use.
This week CIA Director William Burns testified that he sees that a lengthy conflict will play out. And it goes without saying that none of this will be good for global food and energy security.
Additionally, Moscow has freshly warned Washington this week to stop supplying arms to Kiev, warning of "unpredictable consequences" to come by continuing down this path. Indeed given Russia is now losing entire warships, and with a crew of over 500 having to be evacuated, the war has just entered a new unpredictable phase.