Weapons Tracing Study Implicates Russia in Ukraine Conflict

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World|Weapons Tracing Study Implicates Russia successful Ukraine Conflict


One of the astir broad studies to day of weaponry successful the warfare successful Ukraine shows a panoply of Russian-supplied arms that has helped substance the war.

Members of the pro-Russian Vostok Battalion practicing successful  Donetsk successful  2014.
Credit...Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Andrew E. Kramer

Nov. 3, 2021, 7:00 p.m. ET

KYIV, Ukraine — A survey of weapons and ammunition utilized successful the warfare successful Ukraine shows that Russia has been systematically fanning the struggle with arms shipments, according to a caller study funded by the European Union and the German government.

The survey is hardly the archetypal to scope this conclusion: the United States and European countries person sanctioned Russia for years for arms transfers to separatist forces they accidental Moscow is supporting successful Ukraine.

But the survey is 1 of the astir broad to day connected the issue. While improbable to alteration the wide picture, it offered a fine-grained presumption of illicit weapons transfers successful Ukraine and illustrated the scope of the arms commercialized that is fueling Europe’s only progressive war.

Earlier analyses of Russian weapons transfers successful Ukraine leaned connected photographs oregon authorities intelligence. The caller study focused connected existent armaments.

Researchers studied dozens of rifles, grenade launchers, shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles and thousands of rounds of ammunition taken from captured oregon killed separatist fighters oregon positions they had occupied.

The researchers examined the recovered weapons and traced serial numbers and different identifying marks backmost to manufacturers. It provided “a model into a mostly forgotten struggle that, since aboriginal 2014, has persisted connected the borderline of Europe,” the study said.

Titled “Weapons of War successful Ukraine,” the study said that the separatist forces “are much than militias equipped with weapons inherited from the erstwhile Soviet Union; rather, they mimic modern armies and travel established subject doctrine.”

The war, fought on an astir 280-mile-long trench enactment that cuts done the flatlands of eastbound Ukraine, began aft thoroughfare protesters deposed a pro-Russian Ukrainian president successful 2014. Russia responded with a subject involution it has ne'er acknowledged.

The Kremlin has consistently denied transferring arms to Ukraine, adjacent aft Western governments documented large weaponry crossing the border. This included a tracked vehicle-mounted antiaircraft rocket strategy that shot down a civilian airliner successful 2014, sidesplitting each 298 radical aboard. Russian officials person blamed Western governments for fomenting the struggle with subject enactment for the Ukrainian government, including the United States’ proviso of anti-tank Javelin missiles and Turkey’s proviso of Bayraktar equipped drones, utilized for the archetypal clip successful struggle conscionable past month.


Credit...Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

The struggle has again raised alarms this fall. Commercial outer photographs and videos posted connected societal media person shown Russian tanks and different armored vehicles close to the Ukrainian border, raising fears of a nonstop invasion.

And the measurement of arms transfers to proxy forces already successful Ukraine outlined successful the caller study highlights the volatility of the situation. The study, conducted by Conflict Armament Research, a institution based successful Britain that specializes successful tracing weaponry, was funded by the European Union and the German Federal Foreign Office.

The survey looked mostly astatine tiny arms, the astir basal but often astir lethal weapons successful wars adjacent erstwhile much blase armaments are successful use, arsenic is the lawsuit successful Ukraine.

The survey recovered weaponry that the researchers suggested could person travel from obscurity but Russian subject arsenals. It found, for example, respective types of grenade launchers, sniper rifles and onshore mines that were ne'er successful work with the Ukrainian military, and hence could not person been captured and enactment to usage by the separatist armies. Specialized weaponry besides turned up. The researchers accidental they documented a Russian factory-made “anti-handling” device, oregon booby-trap, that tin beryllium acceptable nether a onshore excavation to spell disconnected erstwhile idiosyncratic tries to disarm the mine.

More subtle grounds besides pointed to separatists having a nonstop enactment of enactment from Russia.

Kalashnikov rifles recovered successful illicit small-arms commercialized successful processing satellite conflicts, wherever they are the work-a-day limb of galore militant groups, are typically assembled from parts from aggregate guns, the study noted. Mismatched serial numbers connected components is common. But that was not the lawsuit successful eastbound Ukraine, the study said: the rifles had matching parts, suggesting a much nonstop way from mill to battlefield.

The survey traced 4,793 rounds of small-arms ammunition and 43 weapons recovered from battlefields from 2014 until 2019. Analysts traced ammunition utilizing “headstamps” oregon the stamped markings ringing the primers connected casings, and weapons by serial numbers. The Russian authorities and Russian arms manufacturers did not respond to the researchers’ requests for comment.


Credit...Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

Though objective successful tone, the study did hint astatine the grim quality play down the items being studied.

A firearm that erstwhile belonged to a separatist soldier, for example, arrived successful beforehand of the British researchers inactive tied with a ribbon inscribed with Orthodox Christian prayers for protection.

The survey of bullets painted a much nuanced representation connected sourcing. The full illustration of small-arms ammunition had been manufactured astatine sites successful what is present Russia, the researchers said. The prevalence of a caliber of ammunition utilized successful Kalashnikovs lone aft 1974 suggested a much modern arsenal. But overmuch had been successful retention for years, leaving its provenance uncertain.

The bullets looked astatine successful the survey were made implicit a span of 65 years, the oldest being a circular for a Kalashnikov made successful 1948, conscionable a twelvemonth aft the firearm was archetypal introduced successful the Soviet Union.

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