Russia reportedly launched 36 cruise missiles early on Thursday, according to the head of the Ukrainian army, a day after six balloons were spotted over Kyiv.
According to officials, a woman was killed and critical infrastructure was hit by missiles fired from land and the sea.
In apparent reference to the balloons over Kyiv, Ukraine noted that Russian strategy had changed.
The majority of the balloons were shot down, according to the military in Kiev, who also noted that they were being propelled by wind.
Social media posts depict an uncomplicated design with a cross-shaped radar-reflecting structure trailing beneath the balloon that is suspended by a line. In recent days, reflector-equipped balloons have also been seen flying over Dnipropetrovsk's eastern region.
According to air force spokesman Yurii Ihnat, "These objects could be carrying radar reflectors and specific reconnaissance equipment.". "The balloons were sent into the air to find and deplete our air defense systems. " .
High-altitude balloons have recently heightened tensions in both the US and Ukraine. Earlier this week, a weather balloon-like object was spotted in the sky at a height of about 11,000 feet (3,350 meters), prompting Romania to scramble fighter jets. For a brief period, Moldova temporarily closed its airspace due to the enigmatic object.
The balloons appear to be an addition to Russia's aerial use of cruise missiles and less expensive Iranian drones as the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine approaches.
The balloons could fool radar systems and tempt the Ukrainian military to fire extremely costly surface-to-air missiles (Sams) at purported "false targets.".
The air force spokesman claimed that given the size and speed of the balloons, Ukrainian radar was able to correctly identify the objects and, at least twice, bring them down with bullets rather than wasting missiles.
But the balloons might also serve as a ruse. Using ground-based radars, including many that are a part of their own Sam systems from the Soviet era and modern replacements supplied by the West, Ukraine continuously scans the skies for Russian aircraft and missiles.
The balloons, according to the Ukrainian military, had reflectors that would cause Ukrainian aircraft defenses to lock on to them.
The balloons would then enable Russia's fighters, bombers, cruise missiles, and attack drones to strike Ukrainian targets comparatively unhindered by "soaking up" as much of that missile defense as possible.
The idea is to bounce back radar energy from Ukrainian radars that "paint" balloons. The balloons could imitate real Russian aircraft or helicopters while flying in strong winds, tempting Ukrainian defenses to engage them.
According to Russian military expert Andrei Klintsevich, Russia is employing the same tactic to defend the Kerch Strait bridge leading to Crimea from attack.
In earlier conflicts, more advanced decoys were used to trick air defenses. According to reports, Israel used them against Syrian Sams in the Bekaa Valley in 1982 and against US aircraft in Iraq during the first few hours of Operation Desert Storm in 1991. .
The Nasams, Iris-T, and Patriot modern Sam systems that were deployed in Ukraine may be able to distinguish between these balloon drones and actual threats. But from the Russian point of view, any diversion will be considered a successful strategy.
The balloons may be used for surveillance, and this warrants further investigation, the Ukrainian air force spokesman added.