Note: This is part of a series. You can read parts one, two, threefour, and five here.

The Soviet standard man-portable arsenal is employed by Ukrainian and pro-Russian separatist forces across the board sans the FM 100-2-3 organization of forces. This includes all of those mass-produced machine guns such as the AKM, AK-74, BG-15 or GP-25, AKSU-74, SVD, RPK, RPK-7 and PKM. We would also be remiss not to mention the standard of any Warsaw Pact nation: the Rocket Propelled Grenade Launchers (RPGs), the RPG-7V, RPG-16D, RPG-18, RPG-22; as well as the 9K111 Fagot anti-tank missile and the exceptional but primarily sight-only employed AT-4/SPIGOT. Further support weapons included the all too often – violently overused in Ukraine AGS-30; the world’s worst machine gun also known as the DShK and the lifesaving or party-starting ZPU-2.

Truck mounted ZPU-2 with twin 14.5-mm cannons. Image courtesy of the author.
Truck-mounted ZPU-2 with twin 14.5-mm cannons. Image courtesy of the author.

All these weapons were built out of the worst fears of the Cold War which never materialized into reality. Now, many of these old, but new-in-box machine guns – some stamped as late as 1979 with accompanying support small arms dating as late as 1984 are showing up on the battlefield.  The amount of munitions was shocking and disappointing.

For those of you who have never spent some time out of the NATO-sphere, former Warsaw Pact supplied countries ammunition cans first require a can opener to get to your ammo, you are then presented with a metal box full of loose or awkwardly packed paper wrapped rounds along with the tetanus-wielding sharp edges. This is not too much of an issue for magazine loading weapons, but clearly the old Soviets had something against the disintegrating link. Every belt-fed weapon system such as the PKM, DShK, AGS and so on, requires every single round to be hand-loaded onto one of your always-too-few 50-round belts, and if you forget a belt, you’re going to have a bad day.

The unforgiving sardine can for ammunition packing found in former Warsaw pact related nations. Image courtesy of the author.
The unforgiving sardine can for ammunition packing found in former Warsaw pact-related nations. Image courtesy of the author.

The Ukrainian arsenal was also not lacking for landmines, but did not own or was in many cases completely unaware of the existence of the important support pieces such as demining and marking equipment. Mines are currently deployed above and below the surface with varying means of detonation as the proper initiator is unavailable. This will pose a long term threat past the point of hostilities, a hazard that is compounded as standardized land mine mapping and marking is not practiced.

The information regarding landmine placement is also not disseminated to adjacent or replacement units. This has manifested a unique situation and creates a variety of things that will make you have to watch you step, including but not limited to: the OZM-72, MON-50, MON-200, TM-62M and other non-conventional hazards with strange placement such as RSP-30 Signal Rockets, F-1 Grenades and Semtex-based improvised explosive devices (IED) all of which is connected to anything including a piece of fishing line to tie off to. There is also a limited usage for any extended deployment of command detonated munitions and modern detonation initiators (MDI) as supply for even basic detonation cord is in short order. These shortages have resulted in a heavy reliance on electric initiation systems that are often field improvised, in piecemeal using household electrical wire to reach the distance required.

The MTK-2 or Commie MCLC, the explosives in these line charges were being harvested for other purposes. Image courtesy of the author.
The MTK-2 or Commie MCLC, the explosives in these line charges were being harvested for other purposes. Image courtesy of the author.

That said, there is still an all-encompassing issue logistics and deployment issues for Ukraine, which has until recently failed to produce a single improvement to their defense ecosphere for over two decades. In fact, Ukraine has historically chosen to weaken its defense capabilities by reducing their total number of forces, 780,000 in 1991 to 130,000 by 2014, leaving Ukraine, a country with a landmass of 233,062 square miles with a minimum total forces for self-defense. In light of the current conflict, defense spending has increased as well as troop levels which have risen to a 2015 high of 250,000.  Meanwhile, their neighbors in Russia was making giant strides in defense spending and behaving with increased belligerence as recent as the 2008 Russo-Georgian War.

An AT-4/SPIGOT sight emplacement at a pro-Russian separatist observation post near Lebedyns’ke. Image courtesy of the author.

At the advent of hostilities, field capable hardware was difficult to come by as most of the equipment at the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine (MIA), and Ministry of Defense of Ukraine (MOD) was in poor condition, miserably outdated or insufficient. National stock data from 2012 demonstrates, as does the guns volunteers and service members are currently bringing to front, make up approximately 92% of Ukraine’s weapon systems that are still over 20 years old. Ukraine has so far managed to produce or stock 1.2 per cent of the hardware that it had in the previous decade. Unfortunately for Ukraine, there is a war in their yard, which is now stripping what little remained. Ukraine did not prepare itself for war during its time of peace and its service members and volunteers as dreadfully reaping what their leaders failed to sow.