How Ukrainians, targeting by drone, attacked Russian artillery in Kherson


A Ukrainian soldier who goes by the call name ”Viter” carries a Leleka-100 drone about to be launched, and carefully navigates his way through a field on Thursday in the Kherson region, Ukraine, seeded with Russian mines.
A Ukrainian soldier who goes by the decision identify ”Viter” carries a Leleka-100 drone about to be launched, and thoroughly navigates his approach by means of a subject on Thursday in the Kherson area, Ukraine, seeded with Russian mines. (Heidi Levine for The Washington Post)

KHERSON REGION, Ukraine — The discovery was made by two Ukrainian troopers staring wide-eyed at their laptop computer screens, arrange in the trunk of their SUV. They sat on a makeshift bench, the massive plastic case for his or her drone. What they had been was some 25 miles away, deep into Russian-occupied Ukrainian territory.

It was a Russian artillery battery positioned in a skinny slice of tree line. The drone operator, Leonid Slobodian, began counting out loud as he zoomed in and took screenshots of the findings. He noticed at the very least 5 weapons, vehicles that most likely carried ammunition inside and counterbattery radar. This was what the Ukrainian army calls a “fat” goal.

Beside him, Oleksandr Kapli fired off a voice message to the members of the 128th Mountain Assault Brigade additionally watching a stay stream of the drone digital camera.

“We need to smash this from front to back,” Kapli stated into his telephone.

Then the expletive-ridden response: “Send all of the footage and we’ll [mess] it up.”

Drone video obtained by The Washington Post exhibits Russian forces coming underneath hearth from Ukrainian artillery on Oct. 6, 2022. (Video: Courtesy of “Falcon” unit of the Kryvyi Rih Territorial Defense Forces)

Russian forces in Ukraine’s southern Kherson area are trying to carry the entrance line close to the city of Dudchany after a strategic retreat alongside the Western financial institution of the Dnieper River. Ukraine’s army, in the meantime, is making an attempt to take again much more floor earlier than reinforcements from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s mobilization arrive.

The “Falcon” unit of the Kryvyi Rih Territorial Defense Forces on Thursday allowed Washington Post journalists a uncommon take a look at a day of battle right here by means of the lens of their Ukrainian-made Leleka-100 drone, which seems to be like a small, grey aircraft. Moscow has extra weapons than Kyiv, so strikes on “fat” targets — armored automobiles, ammunition reserves and artillery — just like the one the Falcon unit recognized on Thursday is how Ukraine can weaken its enemy and advance.

In the Kherson area, the place the terrain is flat with wide-open fields, hiding that type of gear from reconnaissance drones is a problem for either side — one that may solely improve because the leaves fall and winter arrives.

On Thursday, the Falcon unit was capable of see by means of the bushes. It positioned the Russian artillery battery, helped Ukraine’s personal artillery goal it, after which watched as elements of it had been destroyed.

“Our task is to determine how many reserves are coming in, how strong these Russian fortifications now are, and to track all of the military equipment,” Kapli stated. “Then we convey all of that to artillery forces, and they shell everything possible.”

Russian forces at the moment are massing close to the city of Mylove, Kapli stated, to defend their stronghold in the occupied city of Nova Kakhovka, on the alternative financial institution of the river. There, Moscow has seized a hydroelectric energy plant that controls a significant water provide to Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014.

The artillery battery the Falcon unit noticed was close to the neighboring village of Chervonyi Yar. A second drone flight confirmed the gear was nonetheless in place, and Slobodian handed alongside extra screenshots of the location, studying out its coordinates.

Neither he, Kapli, nor a lot of the remainder of their unit had any fight expertise earlier than Russia’s full-scale invasion. Slobodian and Garry Wagner, who operates the drone with him, had been cameramen for Ukrainian tv channels earlier than the conflict.

After accumulating donations, Falcon’s commander, Oleh Lyadenko, in April bought the Leleka drone, which might fly about 25 miles and keep in the air for 2 hours earlier than it wants a battery change. Sometimes, the 128th brigade asks for Falcon to examine sure areas, or to comply with a Russian column of tanks to see the place they go. Other occasions, the drone operators make their very own finds.

The latest Russian retreat allowed the unit to maneuver ahead into not too long ago liberated villages and fly over territory beforehand out of their digital camera’s vary.

On Thursday, they launched their drone from a trench line the Russians had used for themselves till this week. While the drone was flying, among the troopers took cautious steps across the neighboring subject, taking pictures at nonetheless unexploded mines.

During one of many Leleka’s flights, they observed on the display screen a second, longer trench line close by. Two of the troopers went to discover it, returning with souvenirs — baseball caps with patches of the Russian flag and a “Z,” the image for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The retreating Russians left crates of pear juice behind, which the unit has been ingesting with smirks on their faces.

With the assistance of a Starlink satellite tv for pc web system, they labored from 8 a.m. till sundown. Around 2:45 p.m., they launched the drone for its penultimate flight of the day. Within minutes, it noticed smoke on the horizon, close to the place they recognized the enemy artillery battery for the 128th brigade.

But because it obtained nearer, Slobodian realized it was a neighboring tree line. The Russians had tried to cover their gear there, too, and a special reconnaissance drone had noticed it. Ideally, that is the way it ought to work, Kapli stated — one drone following one other so protection is rarely misplaced and extra targets are marked. As lengthy as one thing was burning, everybody in the unit was glad.

Falcon’s job now was to maintain its digital camera skilled on the realm and ensure that the U.S.-provided artillery was hanging precisely as shells landed alongside the tree line. Soldiers crowded across the pc display screen and cheered as they watched the explosions in actual time.

“At least we have something to be happy about today,” Kapli stated in a voice word to his comrade in the 128th brigade.

“Grilled meat,” Slobodian deadpanned as one other explosion flashed throughout the display screen.

Then one strike hit a Russian Ural truck, creating an enormous mushroom cloud over the spot. It had been crammed with ammunition. The males watching the display screen erupted, too. Now the enemy had fewer shells to assault with — and fewer weapons to fireplace them.

“That was a nuclear explosion,” Kapli exclaimed between laughs. “We’ve been fighting for a while now, but an explosion like that, I haven’t seen.”

Slobodian rubbed his arms collectively. The “fat” place they found can be subsequent. Smoke rose over the bushes once more. At least one of many Russian 152-mm weapons had been broken, they suspected. Their drone was operating out of battery energy and wanted to show again, however the day had been profitable.

By Friday, that they had moved on to new targets, recording overhead video of a Russian tank burning on the aspect of a special subject.

War in Ukraine: What you have to know

The newest: Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decrees Friday to annex four occupied regions of Ukraine, following staged referendums that had been broadly denounced as unlawful. Follow our live updates here.

The response: The Biden administration on Friday introduced a new round of sanctions on Russia, in response to the annexations, targeting authorities officers and members of the family, Russian and Belarusian army officers and protection procurement networks. President Volodymyr Zelensky additionally stated Friday that Ukraine is applying for “accelerated ascension” into NATO, in an obvious reply to the annexations.

In Russia: Putin declared a military mobilization on Sept. 21 to name up as many as 300,000 reservists in a dramatic bid to reverse setbacks in his conflict on Ukraine. The announcement led to an exodus of more than 180,000 people, principally men who were subject to service, and renewed protests and other acts of defiance against the war.

The battle: Ukraine mounted a successful counteroffensive that forced a major Russian retreat in the northeastern Kharkiv region in early September, as troops fled cities and villages that they had occupied for the reason that early days of the conflict and abandoned large amounts of military equipment.

Photos: Washington Post photographers have been on the bottom from the start of the conflict — here’s some of their most powerful work.

How you’ll be able to assist: Here are methods these in the U.S. can support the Ukrainian people in addition to what people around the world have been donating.

Read our full protection of the Russia-Ukraine war. Are you on Telegram? Subscribe to our channel for updates and unique video.



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