by Ambra Visentin

Deforestation ‘to ensure Russia’s security’. As The Insider reports, the experimental fields of the Timiryazev Agricultural Academy, north of Moscow, are the first areas within the city limits where air defence systems have appeared. In the Timiryazevsky district, the ground was flattened, covered with asphalt and the launchers of the S-400 surface-to-air missile systems were installed. They were placed about 200 metres from the nearest house. A total of four missile launchers are in operation. In addition, a 92H6E multifunctional radar, which detects and tracks air targets, is deployed at the site. First it was installed on a wheeled chassis, while at the end of February it was installed on a 40B6M mobile tower with a height of approximately 25 metres. At the centre of the site is a 96L6E radar at all altitudes, designed to measure the coordinates of aerial targets: aircraft, helicopters, UAVs and missiles. Between the two towers are the fuel tanks.

Even in the Losiny Ostrov Park area, the distance between the air defence systems and the residential area is about 200 metres. Four out of nine missile launchers have been moved to vertical and combat positions. The installation of the S-400 has aroused the ire of environmentalists and local residents, as the area is part of a protected nature reserve. The Federal State Budget Institute Losiny Ostrov, in response to enquiries, stated that the clearing was carried out for the purposes of national security.

The most invasive intervention, however, was in the Pechatniki district, south-east of Moscow, where around 100 hectares of the forest strip on the left bank of the Moscow River, forest in the protection zone of the Kolomenskoye museum-reserve, were destroyed. The forest strip was more than 2 km long. Residents fear that the famous Church of the Ascension may lose its UNESCO World Heritage status.

Image from The Insider

Police officers and workers confirmed that the felling was for defensive purposes. According to reporters, the site for the needs of the Ministry of Defence will occupy 5 hectares and will be located in the southern part of the former forest belt. The rest of the territory will be occupied by ‘production sites’ for companies such as Gormost, Moslift, UEC, Mosvodostok, Avtodor YVADO, Moskollector. State Duma deputy Svetlana Razvorotneva responded to residents’ discontent on VKontakte, a popular social platform in Russia (ed.), by writing that the site was ‘an industrial zone, a kennel and a wastewater treatment plant’, not a relic forest. He also stated that he could not reveal the details of the construction because of the ‘times we live in’.

The Russian Defence Ministry has never commented on the deployment of air defence systems in the city – although Russia, through its Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Vasyl Nebenzi, has repeatedly criticised the deployment of air defence systems by the Ukrainian armed forces near residential areas, which, according to the Russian side, results in ‘attacks on civilian targets’. The deployment of air defence systems in urban areas is indeed not recommended unless the country is under martial law. This creates risks that are not justified for peacetime, said Alexander Kovalenko: ‘If Russia has not officially imposed martial law, placing these SAMs and SAM systems within the city limits, and especially in the centre, is a security breach. Uncontrolled launches and other emergencies of various kinds are possible. These systems are dangerous for the population and should be placed outside the city limits’.

The installation of complexes is permitted if martial law is declared in the country. In this case, different rules apply; air defence systems can be deployed within the city limits to increase the effectiveness of air defence and to protect against a real air threat. In creating air defence units, the Russian army focuses on protecting the centre, Kovalenko believes. At the same time, the expert notes that the south-western direction remains uncovered, even though that is where the Kremlin believes the potential enemy is located.

Cover image: ©Riverpark life