How Russia Hides its Hardware in Ukraine

With Russia’s current unproven accusations that Ukraine’s planning an offensive in eastern Ukraine, this hiding hardware post is all the more relevant. In eastern Ukraine, the proven facts are, Russia’s forces (RF) hide and position much of their artillery and tanks near the frontline. How do we know this? – because the OSCE produces a regular stream of imagery showing hidden artillery and tanks and even large quantities of hardware on full display near the frontline. This mass of factual evidence shows it’s Russia whose willfully breaching the Minsk peace agreement and not Ukraine.

Due to eastern Ukraine having once been an industrial heartland, it’s home to a multitude of abandoned coal mines, industrial buildings and even former Russian military sites. So when it comes to finding places to hide stuff, you’re spoilt for choice.

November 24th 2021.
The OSCE saw 2 self-propelled artillery pieces hidden in this abandoned building (header pic shows a Gvozdika 122mm howitzer artillery piece). We can see additional efforts had been made to hide them, with wood and sheeting used to plug the buildings partially open wall.

As in this case, RF often endanger civilian lives, by deliberately hiding their hardware next to civilian homes – here the building is just 170m away from the nearest house. With this heavy artillery only 13km from the contact line (frontline), the OSCE has labeled them as a clear Minsk violation. Artillery such as this should not be within 25km of the frontline. Howitzers have a steep angle of fire, making them ideal for firing from behind woods, buildings and hills etc.

OSCE imagery enables us to build up a picture of Russia’s forces activity in an area. And the above image reveals a great deal. In Ukraine’s Luhansk Oblast (province) and the village of Komisarivka, the artillery is located in what appears to be an old military base (see below image). Building shown in OSCE image is marked with the small red oblong. Coordinates: 48°23’1.55″N 38°32’7.76″E.

The below Aug 2020 Google Earth image shows a close-up of the building. What’s immediately noticeable, are markings on the road indicating vehicles are routinely driving back and forth into it.

Google Earth also tells us, Russia’s forces were using this location and the building from 2018. The below May 2018 image shows part of the compounds surrounding walls have been knocked down and a well used vehicle track leading towards the frontline has developed (red arrow bottom left). The second red arrow points towards the building and again there are prominent signs of vehicle activity around its entrance.

From Aug 2019: a close-up of the breach in the compounds two walls and the vehicle track running through them.

Additionally, satellite imagery reveals Russia’s forces vehicles were here in both 2019 and as seen below in Oct 2020 – these maybe convoys delivering ammo for the artillery. My assessment is, this artillery has been here since at least 2018. It’s periodically driven (usually at night) a short distance to fire on Ukrainian positions and then returns back to the buildings.

For more info on OSCE imagery showing Russia’s forces in eastern Ukraine, I recommend you visit the MarkoSE Google Blog. It’s in Finnish, but you can always translate using Google Chrome. Like me, Marko follows events in eastern Ukraine.

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