Moscow in danger? Why was an air defense system put on Defense Ministry HQ?

The air defense system's placement may limits its effectiveness and could damage the Defense Ministry building.

 Russian Defense Ministry building in Moscow (photo credit: Vladimir Menkov/Wikimedia Commons)
Russian Defense Ministry building in Moscow
(photo credit: Vladimir Menkov/Wikimedia Commons)

Russian presidential press secretary Dimitry Peskov declined to explain why a Pantsir missile system had been placed on top of the Russian Defense Ministry building, and whether the Kremlin anticipated an attack on Moscow itself on Friday, after images of the air defense emplacement were published on social media on Thursday.

In response to queries about the odd placement of the defense system, Peskov insisted that Russian media direct such questions to the Defense Ministry.

“Here I want to completely redirect you to our Defense Ministry," Peskov said according to TASS. "They are responsible for ensuring the security of the country in general and the capital in particular."

The Pantsir is a medium-range defense system, in contrast to the S-400 and its predecessors that are used to defend against long-range targets. The Pantsir provides protection from low-flying aircraft such as helicopters, cruise missiles, and most notably drones.

 Russian Pantsir-S anti-aircraft missile and gun systems drive during a rehearsal for the Victory Day parade, which marks the anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, in Red Square in central Moscow, Russia May 7, 2021. (credit: MAXIM SHEMETOV/REUTERS) Russian Pantsir-S anti-aircraft missile and gun systems drive during a rehearsal for the Victory Day parade, which marks the anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, in Red Square in central Moscow, Russia May 7, 2021. (credit: MAXIM SHEMETOV/REUTERS)

Ukraine intensifies strikes into Russian territory

Recent months have seen the Ukrainian military engage in extensive use of suicide drone to conduct repeated forays against targets such as the major Russian naval base at Sevastopol. The importance of the increased use of drones to strike targets deep within Russian territory was highlighted by the Ukrainian Defense Ministry on Friday with the announcement that Ukraine was seeking to produce a 1000 unit-strong fleet of kamikaze drones.

"Do you think that a “Pantsyr” [sic] air defense system installed on the rooftop is going to help the ministry of defense of the terrorussia? [sic] Let’s hear your thoughts!" the Ukrainian Defense Ministry tweeted early Friday morning. "We believe that the best protection for them would be a tin foil hat."

Some have questioned the variability of placing the system on top of the Russian Defense Ministry building, given that its radar system would be limited to detecting anything above the building, and the launching of a missile could damage the facility.

As of Friday noon, the Russian Defense Ministry has not released a statement on the issue.