KYIV, Ukraine — As Ukrainian and Russian troops fight conventional battles on the front lines, Europe’s first major war of the internet age has also sparked a war of technology as both sides vie for advantage with their drones and satellite communications.
While the two sides have kept pace with one another thus far, Ukraine’s minister in charge of technology told The Associated Press in an interview Friday that he was confident his country had the motivation and abilities to out-innovate Russia in the end.
Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s Minister of Digital Transformation, said unmanned aerial vehicles (drones), electronic warfare, satellite communications and other technologies had been a fundamental part of the war with Russia that began more than a year ago.
“Technologies allow traditional and modern artillery to be more accurate, and they help save the lives of our soldiers,” he said.
“When you have ‘eyes’ over you, you can make more effective decisions about managing your troops.”
He acknowledged that Russia was also aware of the importance of technology on the battlefield, and was actively developing and improving its own.
“Every day, there are new UAVs on the battlefield from our side and from Russia’s side,” Fedorov said. “We see what kind of drones they have. We receive, disassemble and study them”.
He said the government was planning investments in new technology projects to encourage further competition and innovation.
“In this technology war we will surely win,” he said.
“Even if fewer than 50-60% of supported projects will give some result, it can be decisive on the battlefield.”
In recent weeks, anticipation of a possible Ukrainian counteroffensive this spring has risen. Fedorov said it was impossible to imagine any efficient operations without technologies on the battlefield.
Ukraine has not mounted a major operation to liberate occupied territories since it retook the city of Kherson and part of the surrounding province last November. However, the frequency of reported drone attacks in Russia has increased.
Over the past months, a spate of drone strikes has targeted areas in southern and western Russia, reflecting the growing reach of the Ukrainian military. After each strike, Russian authorities blamed Ukraine, but Ukrainian official stopped short of openly claiming responsibility. Instead, they emphasized the right to strike any target in response to the Russian aggression.
Fedorov said the effect of Ukraine’s drone warfare could be seen in Russia’s actions, noting that Russia has now started moving armored equipment further from the front line.
“There have been certain events that have changed the situation, but we continue to scale this useful experience,” he said, but refused to be drawn on the details.
Commenting on the battle for the city of Bakhmut, the longest of the war so far, Fedorov said that the “use of technologies is invaluable in such situations.” “When you have limited artillery resources, weapons, ammunition, and strike drones, you need to be as accurate as possible,” he said. This accuracy can be achieved in particular by drones.
However, with a front line thousands of kilometers long, the heavy weapons and armored equipment traditional for warfare remained essential, Fedorov said. Technology could help Ukraine locate potential targets, but the army could not hit them all because it lacked the necessary artillery and ammunition, he said.
The delivery of promised aid from partner countries remained “critical,” said the minister in charge of technologies.