Ukraine: How Russia’s Forces Hide Frontline Artillery

Now it wont come as any surprise to learn, Russia’s forces (RF) station heavy artillery and other hardware on the frontline. This despite the 2015 Minsk II agreement which ordered the pull-out of all heavy weapons from the frontline region. For artillery with 100mm calibre or more, these must be withdrawn 25km from the frontline. For Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), it’s 35km. With tanks having a shorter weapons range, these shouldn’t be within 15km of the frontline.

Using two 2021 OSCE images, we take a look at how RF move their heavy artillery around at night and attempt to hide it. Note the OSCE has labelled both the images as Minsk Violations.

The above April 19th 2021 image shows a convoy of 6 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS).
In Ukraine’s ‘occupied’ Luhansk region, the MLRS have stopped on the main road leading out of the town of Chornukhyne – soldiers can be seen standing next to the vehicles. Filmed at night, using a long-range UAV, the graphic indicates the frontline (contact line) is only 18km away. MLRS have a range of around 20km, but using newer designed rockets, this can be increased to around 40km. Much of Russia’s hardware, including the abundance of electronic warfare systems will be moved round during the hours of darkness. Coordinates: 48°18’32.47″N 38°31’49.91″E

Due to safety concerns, OSCE patrols don’t travel at night, and so UAV are flown from their bases. However, this years seen a huge increase in the amount of electronic jamming of OSCE UAV. This had led to fewer flights and damage to UAV through crashes caused by radio signal interference. There’s also far more firing at them than in previous years.

Using Google Earth, I tracked down the location of the OSCE image.

With the MLRS apparently leaving or travelling through Chornukhyne, it suggests they’ve either been hidden somewhere in that frontline area or perhaps in the nearby larger town of Debaltseve (Donetsk region). Once a major coal producing region, eastern Ukraine’s littered with abandoned mines and large industrial buildings. These make ideal locations for Russia’s forces to conceal a multitude of hardware from prying eyes & UAV.
Along with another 6 MLRS seen in the Donetsk region, the OSCE listed those at Chornukhyne in their April 21st Daily report.

OSCE report
Ukrainian forces hold the area around the town of Svitlodarsk, seen in the top left.

We now move onto artillery hidden in daylight.
Again in the ‘occupied’ Luhansk region, May 23rd 2021: OSCE spotted 3 self-propelled artillery pieces. Located in a wood outside the village of Berdianka (Berdyanka), they’re just 7km from the frontline. This puts them well within range of Ukrainian held territory around the Zolote disengagement (west) & village of Krymske in the east. Coordinates: 48°38’38.58″N 38°44’32.44″E

The guns don’t look to be facing the frontline, which suggests they’re simply hidden here. The standard practice of Russia’s forces is for their self-propelled artillery to fire off a few rounds, then move quickly away from their firing position. In this way they hope to avoid any Ukrainian return fire. They are slow-moving tracked vehicles, hence as seen here, they need to be kept close to the frontline to avoid traveling long distances.

Using Google Earth, I again tracked down the OSCE image location.
The wider village location marked in red.


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