Shadow cruise missiles have been fired for the first time by Ukrainian forces, hitting Russian supply depots located 80 miles behind the frontline.
The missile attacks on Friday and Saturday destroyed a factory in Luhansk City used by the Russian army as a depot to store military equipment.
Luhansk City was considered by Russian forces to be beyond the range of Ukrainian firepower.
They used it as a supply hub, for soldiers to rest and recover, and to host visiting Russian dignitaries who did not want to get too close to the fighting.
Videos showed a giant fireball and thick, black smoke billowing up into the sky, while photos published by Russian media showed an alleged fragment of missile casing inscribed with the “Storm Shadow” name.
Pro-Russia officials from the Luhansk region have confirmed the strike and said one person was injured.
Storm Shadow missiles, which are fired from the air, carry a large explosive warhead, especially designed to destroy hardened and even buried targets.
Some important things will ‘blow up’
Analysts said at least one US MALD decoy missile, which does not carry an explosive warhead but uses sophisticated electronics to distract missile-defence systems, had also been fired in the attacks.
“This is going to be a living nightmare for Russian air defence. I suspect that we will see some important things blow up in the near future,” said Oliver Alexander, a defence and security analyst.
The Ministry of Defence only announced on Thursday that it had agreed to give Ukraine an undisclosed number of Storm Shadow missiles, which far out-range the US-supplied Himars rocket artillery that has played a vital role in pushing back Russian forces.
Storm Shadow missiles have a range of more than 180 miles, compared to only about 40 miles for the ground-launched Himars rockets, which have already forced Russian generals to move their supply lines and headquarters further from the frontline.
Ukraine has promised not to fire Storm Shadow missiles at targets in Russia, but is now able to hit any target in any part of its territory, including the whole of Crimea.
Rybar, a Russian military blog, told its one million Telegram subscribers that Russian officials underestimated the potential impact of the Storm Shadow missiles.
“The situation is similar to last summer,” it said.
“They hastened to reassure everybody, and to tell them that there was no great danger from these cruise missiles and that everybody is ready for them, but two days of strikes on Luhansk shows this is not true.”