Through February – August 2022, russia removed 4 out of 14 air defense batteries that provided the air defense of St. Petersburg from combat duty. The redeployment is indicated by satellite images seen by Finnish military and journalists.
According to the article, the redeployed units are the 500th and 1489th anti-aircraft missile regiments of the Western Military District, which were armed with S-300 surface-to-air missiles. In particular, at least 12 self-propelled guns and 120 missiles, vanished from the firing points of the 500th regiment in May 2022. Only the radar for airspace monitoring remained at the point of permanent deployment.
The authors of Yle do not provide specific numbers in regard with the 1489th regiment. They only say that this regiment also shortened by two batteries of S-300 SAM, and by the method of exclusion they assume that there are still two batteries of the latest S-400, which began combat duty in 2018, remaining at disposal of this unit. Anti-aircraft missiles and launchers of the 1489th regiment were transferred partly in July, and the rest in September 2022.
As it turned out, the russians are systematically "cannibalizing" their own air defense in order to be able to shell Ukraine with S-300 systems. For example, the authors of Yle report that another russian unit – the 108th anti-aircraft missile regiment in Voronezh – also was halved in terms of its available S-300 launchers in summer 2022.
At this point, the Finnish authors draw a dialectical conclusion. On the one hand, in such a way, the russians are trying to dispose of their old S-300 complexes by removing them from combat duty and sending them to the border with Ukraine to shell Ukrainian frontline cities. Moreover, even in relatively "peaceful" times, the air defense units of the russian army on the border with Finland constantly spent missiles during exercises without regret.
But on the other hand, in this way the russians quite illogically weaken the anti-aircraft defense of their "western flank", in particular the St. Petersburg agglomeration with a population of 5 million people. And this happens despite the fact that the Kremlin officially states that there is a "threat" from Finland, which is joining NATO.
On the part of Defense Express, we’d like to add one more conclusion: "on paper", the russians have a stockpile of 7,000 missiles for the S-300 air defense system, but in fact they don’t have enough launchers to fire all these missiles.
Over the past few months, the russian army has repositioned at least 3 dozen S-300 launchers; this could be enough to increase the intensity of shelling of Ukrainian city of Kharkiv from the side of Belgorod several times; but this did not happen. It seems that russians have problems not only with the missiles, but also with the launchers for firing them.