April 14, 2024

Balkan Travellers

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“Ukrainians wanted to bite us, they broke their teeth”

“Ukrainians wanted to bite us, they broke their teeth”

From our special correspondent in Donetsk and Melitopol,

« It is controlled by a joystick and the video is broadcasted into this mask worn by the soldier. He can also view the photo here, which is directly controlled by the camera “. Somewhere in the suburbs of Donetsk, in a place out of sight and provided as “safe”, the deputy head of the drone division and technical support of the “Cascade” battalion of the Russian army his operator maneuvering ideas, attention. In a few seconds, the most characteristic light ticking of a drone sounded. This model is an ordinary FPV that can be found everywhere in supermarkets.

But next to that, this manager in a khaki balaclava has six more devices. With a wingspan of a few tens of centimeters to a few meters, these are deadly effective drones widely used by the Russian military. Their range of destruction is wide: from moving or stationary human targets to heavy equipment.

First there’s the coupe, but above all there’s one key asset: the lancet. At around 1.60 meters, with four wings and a propeller on the back, this explosive drone is a weapon of choice. “ The Lancet’s goals are simple: they range. Attack tanks, armored vehicles and even cars. Also, artillery, self-propelled artillery, radar stations and radars, air defense systems… The counter-battery has really become his calling card. It is in this that he has shown himself to be very effective. “, soldier’s details.

Drones? “The more you have, the better »

The 155 millimeter guns supplied by the West in particular seem to have suffered the most from this ammunition. Its first version was used Syria In 2019, but its successful version, the Lancet 3, is widely used Russia Since last fall. With a modest cost estimated at between 20 and 40,000 dollars, this 12-kilogram drone is not subject to sanctions imposed against Moscow.

In a sign of the importance of these weapons, the Kremlin on Tuesday made public the meeting between the Russian president and the head of the Rostec consortium, Sergei Semazov. Vladimir Putin Specifically stated: Kube and Lancet have proven to be very useful and very powerful. They not only burn any equipment, including foreign-made ones, but also destroy ammunition. The producers assured me that they would increase the volume of production. They keep that promise, but it needs to be stepped up ». « No urgent need However, the Deputy Chief of the Drone Division and Stunt Battalion mentions technical support. “ Of course, production must be increased, because drones are very quick-burning weapons. There are casualties, there are shots, sometimes there are hard landings. It is like ammunition for a machine gun. The more you have, the better “, he believes.

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RFI was not authorized to see these drones operating in Sergui Shoigu’s Lyman and Greminna area, the ministry said. Security, was moved last week and the Russian military is now claiming almost daily to make territorial gains. Improbable in part of the Zaporijjia region, the RFI was run by an administration installed by Russia. As for the fortification lines, they may have been accurately photographed and mapped by satellite for months and could be a key element of Russian resistance to a Ukrainian counteroffensive, even where access to them is restricted.

Of the sound and fury of the fighting, and of the critical course of this phase of the conflict on the Russian side, we know nothing. Everything is locked. Access to the area is allowed – very rare – and only by road from Melitopol and Donetsk.

Russian influence

Russia is going to organize a regional election in this part of the Zaporizhia region in early September, in a region that has been partially affected by fighting and martial law since last autumn. The official notification was released on June 15 and the applications “ Under consideration Galina Anatolyevna Katochenko, head of the regional election commission, says. Which profiles are offered to people? Local or delegates from Russia? The secrecy is maintained till August 17, the last date for applications. ” The physical poll will be held on September 10Galina Anatolyevna Katochenko explains, Except in conflict-affected areas ». « Of these, we will deploy mobile teams from August 31. We are currently making arrangements for training the staff to be sent there. “, she adds.

Galina Anatolyevna Katochenko. © Anissa El Jabri/RFI

Local bodies have nearly 500,000 people on the electoral roll. ” Now we have a simple voting procedure, people can vote with old Ukrainian passport and or any other identity document. “, explains Sergei Alexandrovich Dolmachev, assistant to the governor established by Russia. ” To date, about 350,000 Russian passports have already been issued. The process is still ongoing and I hope everyone will be able to somehow vote for a Russian passport through the presidential election in April. ».

To further accelerate its “passportization” policy, Moscow is playing both carrots and sticks. Without a Russian passport, the minimum pension is 10,000 rubles. But, it doubles. Local officials also point out that Russia pays its citizens a maternity allowance of “500,000 rubles” upon the birth of a child. Some regions still do not specify what can be added, for whom Sergey Alexandrovich Tolmachev insists “ Russia is a social state ».

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« Tourists, don’t cancel your vacation in Crimea! »

The country, led by Vladimir Putin, is also investing heavily in local road infrastructure. Traveling on the inland road from Donetsk to Melitopol on the Sea of ​​Azov, your nostrils and throat must be stung by tar. Between fields of sunflowers, a strip of dark blue asphalt glistens coolly in the August sun. Workers in orange jackets are busy on the road and construction vehicles, cranes and trucks, legion. Road widening, bridges… Russia is showing its grip everywhere. It should be said that the main roads to Moscow are a priority.

Echoing what one could read in the legal press the day after the attack on the Kerch bridge on July 17: Tourists, don’t cancel your vacation in Crimea! Go ahead and go through “new territories” (the formula in Russia for annexed territories, author’s note). “. Lists of tips in the form of a map of the area and a fun introduction to the holidays: ” Do not count on urinating in nature: all sides and fields can be cut “. In magazines and in some Telegram channels it is recommended to fill up with fuel and buy enough drinking water before departure. Above all, don’t do it without delay “. Everything the army asks for ».

Missile debris on the roadside. © Anissa El Jabri/RFI

With so many roadblocks, they can quickly become nervous. The presence of tinted windows at the rear of a car, which is very common in the region, evokes strong restraint. The barbed wire on some of the parapets of the road, the ballet of helicopters above the cars, the few pieces of missiles stored very carefully on the side… remind us that we are fighting 150 kilometers away.

Here, nobody wants to chat. At service stations, you fill up quickly and don’t linger. Refusing to speak on the microphone, the two Russians, who live in Crimea and were returning from a professional meeting in Moscow, still hoped to find a way out on Monday. Weighted “. Having learned the day before that two bombs had been dropped on the three cross-roads leading to the Crimea, these two forty hesitated to turn one eye on the road and the other on the information being distributed, before deciding to complete the rest of the route to the Crimea. Through the telegram channels.

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At one of the few stopover cafes open on the road, we make sure that the number of customers doubles and families pass through despite everything. In this haven of air-conditioned freshness, you can meet grandmothers, mothers and even 10-year-old children, all smiling on their way to the beaches of southern Crimea: “ Unless a shell is sent to us, all is well with me “said Patty, menu in hand. The trio had come from Donetsk, which has been in conflict for 10 years, specifically a year back in the Ukrainian fire.

« Go all the way and destroy them all »

These Ukrainian bombing incidents in their strategic axis? As the Russians met in Donetsk, it didn’t matter, the game was over. ” My point is that their counterattack was highly publicized and it turned out badly for them “, Donetsk soldier “Chica” advances in front of his drones. ” Two or three weeks, or even one more month will not change anything, (the Ukrainians) will fail. There is a kind of excitement in all their affairsI’ll take it. We burn everything. They showed their vehicles and weapons as invincible. But it is the attitude of the people that matters, and the attitude of our people goes all the way and destroys everything. “, he confirms, a small smile under his khaki green balaclava.

His manager had the same sharp words. Proud of these famous forts built last winter: “ They wanted to bite, they broke their teeth. That’s it, no, they realized it wasn’t going to happen that way, that’s for sure. All the big victories they planned, like cutting off the land corridor to the Crimea, nothing worked. Let’s see, this fall, they’ll come to apologize and say, “Come on, it’s over, guys, let’s negotiate.” “. An increase in the size of the army, a country that has been in a war economy for almost a year, the Russian political power has made no secret of its purpose: to conduct and direct the conflict as long as it takes to achieve its objectives. Time was convinced that it was its ally.

Helicopter above the cars. © Anissa El Jabri/RFI