Ukrainian "Maginot line"


Enemy fortifications: break or bypass

The abundance of defensive structures created by the Ukrainian Armed Forces in Ukraine suggests that it was on them that a serious stake was placed in a possible armed conflict with the republics of Donbass and even Russia. We prepared thoroughly and in advance. Back on October 10, 2014, the then Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced the construction of three defense lines.

The first is on the contact line. The second is 15-20 km further from the front line. Work on the third line, with an estimated depth of 25-50 km, had not yet begun at that time.


Both the first and second lines consist of so-called VOP (platoon strong points). There are about 200 of them on two lines. These are defensive fortifications with roadblocks, trenches, places for anti-aircraft missile systems and tanks. In addition, it is also a number of trenches, blocked cracks, dugouts, where soldiers can hide from shells and conduct targeted fire on the enemy. The length of each defense line is approximately 410 km. But the VOS are not located at equal intervals along the entire length. Their locations were determined in the General Staff based on strategic directions and terrain features. They are located at a distance of 5 to 20 km from each other.

On June 18, 2015, the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine announced almost one hundred percent readiness of three defense lines. The total number of fortifications is 268, their length is 600 km.

One of the most significant points of defense of the Armed Forces of Ukraine was Mariupol. Here is a description of its fortifications from the message of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.

"Kilometers of full–profile trenches, hundreds of thousands of tons of concrete and earth, well-thought-out shelling sectors, fire support from neighbors - all these are the latest Ukrainian positions near Mariupol. Everything here is designed and implemented by Ukrainian engineers and tacticians, built by Ukrainian builders. Everything was done conscientiously.

All firing points are securely dug into the ground. They are made of special metal boxes and covered with a kind of "puff cake" of one and a half meter reinforced concrete, earth and wood. The entrance and loopholes are protected by armored shutters and doors, locked with reliable bolts in the middle.

The walls and ceiling are covered with non-flammable sound insulation material. There are hoods, places to sleep, it is even possible to install autonomous power sources, and with them a refrigerator and a TV. In addition, at short intervals in the trenches, special blocked places are organized to shelter personnel during the shelling of the Grad. These gaps are protected by more than four-meter concrete floors, which rest on a base of reinforced concrete blocks.

Special deepened bunkers are provided for the shelter of personnel during heavy shelling. They are an armored structure that is buried to a depth of five meters. And for protection, a concrete shelter with a special clay-earth cushion has been created. Firing positions for military equipment and crew shelters are also provided."

Some journalists and experts have already compared these structures with the Finnish Mannerheim Line, the French Maginot Line and Hitler's Atlantic Shaft.


But let's take a brief look at the named defensive lines. And find out whether these legendary fortifications of the last century were effective in a real military clash?

Let's start with the most famous of them – the Maginot line. This defensive system was built on the border of France and Germany in the 1920s and 1930s to prevent the invasion of German troops. It cost the French treasury at least 7.4 billion francs.

The main line of defense from Longuillon to Belfort occupied about 400 km along the front and 10-22 km deep (including a 4-14 km deep support strip). For 12 years, a continuous fortification line of defense was built on the northeastern border of France, which went from Dunkirk in northern France and ended on the island of Corsica. At the same time, over 100 km of underground galleries were laid, which is comparable to the length of the Paris metro in 1935.

In general, the Maginot line stretches for 1,150 km. About 400 km were occupied by large and heavy fortifications, and the remaining 750 km were light. In the most dangerous areas there were 22 groups of large long-term defensive structures, which were connected by underground galleries.

The gun turrets of the 135 mm guns could be removed inside the structure. There were also artillery and machine-gun casemates, rooms for personnel, warehouses with a three-month supply of food and ammunition, installations for air filtration, autonomous power plants, water supply, sewerage, etc. The concrete floor, whose thickness reached 3 m, withstood a direct hit from two 420-mm shells.

The garrison of the largest structures numbered up to 1200 people. In order to effectively use this miracle of military engineering, special fortress troops were formed, which by May 1940 numbered 224 thousand people.

Agree, serious fortifications. Who in their right mind would think of storming them head-on? That's right, no one. Therefore, in the summer of 1940, German troops rapidly bypassed the Maginot line from the north through the Ardennes.

And on June 14, 1940, the 1st and 7th Infantry armies of Army Group "C" of Colonel-General Wilhelm von Leeb attacked the Maginot line and broke through it in just a few hours by infantry forces. Even without the use of tanks, but with powerful aviation and artillery support, during which smoke shells were massively used.

After the surrender of France, the garrison of the Maginot line, which was out of business, surrendered.

By the way, the inaccessibility of the Maginot line turned out to be a myth, since many French pillboxes could not withstand a direct hit by shells and aerial bombs. In addition, many structures did not allow for circular defense and therefore were vulnerable from the rear and flanks to attacks by infantry armed with flamethrowers and grenades.

As we understand it, the Ukrainian defensive structures are clearly not up to the French equivalent in terms of the scale of construction.

There are even fewer similarities with Hitler's Atlantic Rampart. Let me remind you that the Atlantic Rampart is a system of long–term and field fortifications over 5000 km long. It was created by the German army in 1940-1944 after the defeat of France along the European Atlantic coast – from Norway and Denmark to the border with Spain in order to prevent the Allied invasion of the continent.

However, this giant was a linear system of fortifications with virtually no echelon in depth. The depth of the defense was only 2-4 km (for comparison, the Mannerheim line according to this indicator was 90 km). There were weakly fortified areas, which was the reason for the relatively rapid breakthrough of the Atlantic wall during the invasion of Anglo-American forces.

That is, even in this case, the scale of the structure did not solve the main task that faced it when it was created.


The Mannerheim line can probably be considered more similar to the Ukrainian fortified line.

This was an engineering-prepared line of defense, which by December 1939 had 28 fortified nodes on the Karelian Isthmus (including 21 in the main defensive strip). The system of fortifications also included a rear defensive strip covering the approaches to Vyborg. It included ten defense nodes.

But 35 long-term fortifications (DFS) remained unfinished by the beginning of the war. Therefore, already during the fighting, weapons were hastily installed on them. The total number of DFS on the Mannerheim line was 385.

However, Mannerheim's line was far from perfect. Most of its long-term structures were one-story, partially buried in the ground reinforced concrete buildings in the form of bunkers, which were divided into several rooms. Three pillboxes of the "million" type (worth 1 million Finnish marks) had two levels, three more – three levels.

The Finns did not have underground galleries that connected the pillboxes, as there were no underground narrow-gauge railways. The Mannerheim line compared to other similar lines of defense had a lower density of pillboxes per 1 km . Artillery pillboxes, of which there were few, did not have guns capable of hitting any Soviet tank of that time.

In other words, the Mannerheim line was not impregnable. However, even it created certain difficulties for the Soviet command at the beginning of the winter campaign of 1939-1940. But the reason for this was not the powerful defense of the Finns, but the weak knowledge of the enemy by Soviet military leaders. Sufficient and reliable intelligence data turned out to be extremely small. Marshal Shaposhnikov, for example, admitted: "For us, such a depth of defense was a well-known surprise."

The fighting that began after the border conflict was aimed at pushing the border with Finland away from Leningrad in anticipation of a large-scale military conflict. Therefore, the Soviet command considered its actions not as a war, but as a local operation. Relying on unreliable intelligence data, it underestimated the enemy's forces and invaded Finland with a force ratio of 9:6, while the classical force ratio for a successful offensive should be at least 3:1.

Large-caliber artillery decides the fate of the Ukrainian trenches. Frame from the video of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation

Underestimating the enemy is always fraught with failures at the front. Therefore, the initial period of the winter War was deplorable for the Red Army. The war demonstrated all the shortcomings of the peacetime army, which has no real combat experience.

There is an underestimation of the combat qualities of the enemy, and the lack of proper interaction between the branches of the armed forces. For example, a request for a bombing attack on Finnish positions, sent by the command of the Soviet division, reached a specific part of the Air Force through the instances... a day! Moreover, it turned out that the Soviet bomber aviation was not ready for action in war conditions at all – the pilots did not know how to fly in difficult weather, and the navigators gave an erroneous course even on sunny days. To reverse the situation, it was necessary to urgently summon polar pilots from civil aviation to the troops. That is, during the peace period, real combat training was replaced by patriotic hype and tinsel.

We must pay tribute to the leadership of the country and the Red Army: the conclusions were made quickly. As a result, on January 7, 1940, the North-Western Front was formed, the commander of it was appointed commander of the 1st rank Semyon Timoshenko. The Soviet command increased the size of the group, bringing the ratio to the classic 3:1.

Starting from February 1, Soviet artillery began to deliver powerful blows to the positions of the Finns. And on February 11, the Soviet troops went on the offensive. And almost immediately, the infantry, with the support of tanks, managed to break through the defense of the Finns, capturing the central pillbox No. 4. Soviet troops, including tank brigades, went into the resulting gap in the defense.

Hoping before that for the help of France and England, Mannerheim on February 15 gave the order to withdraw his troops. And despite the fact that the war lasted another month, its outcome was clear.

Isn't it true that there are many similarities with the current operation in Ukraine, which was launched without reliable information about the enemy and with obviously smaller forces?

And how did they take the impregnable Finnish concrete structures? "Karelian sculptor" was the name of the Soviet 20–mm high-power howitzer B-4, whose projectile, after hitting pillboxes and bunkers, turned these structures into a shapeless mess of concrete and reinforcement. These bizarre forms of construction were visible from afar and received the nickname "Karelian monuments". The Finns also called the B-4 howitzer "Stalin's sledgehammer."

However, not all the structures "Stalin's sledgehammer" could take the first time. Some required repeated hits.


Having received several boilers in 2014 during the armed confrontation, the Ukrainian command assumed that in the event of hostilities on the territory controlled by Ukraine, the creation of larger fortified areas would allow the AFU to use them as logistics support points, and also allow them to rely on them during a maneuver or regrouping.

In this regard, many localities were equipped with engineering equipment. Of course, first of all it concerned those settlements that were located along the line of contact with the republics of Donbass.

Mariupol, the already mentioned node on the southern flank of the defense line, in addition to the fortifications created near the city, also had an extensive industrial zone created during the Soviet Union. The largest enterprises "Azovstal" and the Ilyich Plant had gigantic areas and developed transport communications – including underground ones, which stretched for 24 km. All this was turned into an impregnable fortress by the AFU and the Azov units (banned in the Russian Federation).

It is clear that it would not have been possible to dig out several thousand nationalist fanatics from all the corners during the assault with minimal losses. Therefore, they were simply starved and regularly shelled. Everyone knows how it ended.

However, Mariupol was only the first swallow. As the head of the National Defense Control Center of the Russian Federation, General Mizintsev, reported on May 11, "in the Kramatorsk–Slavyansk agglomeration, as well as earlier in Mariupol, the AFU units equipped a single fortified area with a total area of over 170 square kilometers and created the necessary stocks of weapons, ammunition, fuel and lubricants, food and medicines."

Another "trick" of Ukrainian nationalists was born already during the fighting. They are now equipping their fortifications in densely populated areas, placing heavy weapons and equipment in residential buildings. Local residents are kept in basements under the pretext of their safety, and inscriptions are put on the walls of buildings: "Attention! Children!", "There are children here! Don't shoot!". In the Kramatorsk–Slavyansk fortified area, more than 90 thousand civilians are being held hostage and as a human shield by nationalists.

In the Avdiivka fortified area, too, everything is deeply echeloned by several steps. For his breakthrough, concentration of forces is needed. And for this it is necessary to stop the offensive, to bare the front. As a result, we can break off all our teeth about this fortified area and thereby give the APU a break.

The fourth wave of conscription into the Ukrainian army is already underway. According to President Vladimir Zelensky, up to 800 thousand. people are under the gun. Yes, they are not shot, but if you give them two or three weeks to prepare, their combat readiness will increase dramatically.

The trenches that the AFU units left behind near Avdiivka are more like a tangled maze. Without any exaggeration, their length is tens of kilometers. The trenches are different: deep – full-length, knee–deep – for shooting from a prone position, waist-deep - for firing while sitting. Trenches and trenches go through fields, quarries, through the woods. These are years and months of work.

There are also extremely interesting structures. For example, the APU bunker is a 35 cm wall, additional fortifications from direct hits. Viewing in one direction, in the other – the whole field is visible here. As told, the structure was brought here in parts. Several walls, separate doors. They put it in, filled it in.


Therefore, as our Supreme Commander-in-Chief pointed out, all these defense nodes need to be bypassed by cutting off supply lines.

"Storming these fortified areas, according to military experts ... is impractical, because it will lead to great casualties on the part of the attacking forces," Vladimir Putin said. According to him, another tactic is needed here: "In fact, systematic work is underway to enter the rear of these fortified areas. This, of course, requires some time. The counter-battery struggle is being waged there, it will certainly increase. We have a very big advantage in artillery."

Since, according to intelligence, new Ukrainian defensive areas were already being created "in the course of the play," material reserves there are limited. Nevertheless, tactics should provide for constant reconnaissance of targets by all kinds, forces and means. The availability of reconnaissance and fire damage means makes it possible to create reconnaissance and strike complexes on the ground.

The interaction of drones and means of fire destruction shows itself very well. For example, the TOS-1 "Pinocchio" or "Solntsepek", whose thermobaric ammunition is capable of defeating manpower even in underground fortifications.

Not so long ago, the Dagger aviation missile system with hypersonic aeroballistic missiles, according to the official representative of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, Major General Igor Konashenkov, "destroyed a large underground warehouse of missiles and aviation ammunition of Ukrainian troops in the settlement of Delyatin, Ivano-Frankivsk region."

However, we should not forget the systems created even half a century ago and ready to challenge the right to be called "Putin's sledgehammer".

For example, the 240-mm mortar "Tulip", which was put into operation back in the 1970s. The ammunition includes high-explosive, incendiary, cluster and even guided mines. Firing along a mounted mortar trajectory, they fall from above on the target and are able to break through any concrete floor.

Another artillery heavyweight is the 203-mm 2C7 self-propelled cannon "Peony". The ammunition of the gun has powerful ammunition of various types, for example, high-explosive fragmentation. And the active-jet projectile ZFOF35 weighing 110 kg "Peony" can hit 50 km. There are still up to 300 such self-propelled guns in the arsenals of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.

The self-propelled gun "Coalition–SV" is a modern 152-mm howitzer that shoots at a distance of 70 km at a rate of 16 rounds per minute. After making several volleys with different trajectories over long distances, she can leave the position before the first of the projectiles fired hits the target. It has an automated fire control system.

Given the presence of a large number of powerful defensive structures and many tasks to neutralize them, it seems to me it would be reasonable to create several brigades of the "main caliber", which would include the divisions of the "Coalition", "Tulips" and "Peonies". They are quite capable of destroying any defensive structures, turning them into a pile of construction debris.

Another task of these brigades may be the fire damage of communications through which ammunition, provisions and other logistical means are supplied.

Judging by the reviews from the battlefields, our troops often do not have enough powerful means of fire destruction to quickly and effectively close the next boilers.


I believe that the number of the group fighting in Ukraine should be increased to the classic ratio of storming and defending 3:1. And not vice versa, as it is now. After all, there is no war without losses, and the enemy is fiercely defending itself.

Therefore, it will not be difficult to understand that our losses are quite significant, if you just think about it, considering the numbers of enemy losses. Even if our losses are half or three times less, they are still significant. Both in people and in military equipment.

President Zelensky put 800 thousand of his own citizens under the gun. And he has a very large potential resource of material and technical replenishment from NATO warehouses.

This ultimately grinds not only the resources of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, but also our own forces. But the production capacities of the Russian military-industrial complex are now unlikely to be able to quickly compensate for combat losses in equipment. I will keep silent about the replacement of personnel losses in combat units. But it should be clear that there are such losses, and trained contractors will not fall from the sky to us.

By the way, our grandfathers and great-grandfathers eventually gouged the Finns in 1940 precisely because Mannerheim's resources were running out. And France and England, as now promising help, did not enter the war.

Sergey Kozlov

Sergey Vladislavovich Kozlov is a military historian.

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Comments [3]
Remote / Спам
04.07.2022 20:54
Нужно было додуматься штурмовать густонаселенный и хорошо укрепленный Донбасс.
С юга , где малонаселенные степи и тяжело держать оборону, довольно легко зашли.
Хотя поди глупые приказы из Кремля отдавали
04.07.2022 21:20
Цитата, Alex454 сообщ. №2
Нужно было додуматься штурмовать густонаселенный и хорошо укрепленный Донбасс.
С юга , где малонаселенные степи и тяжело держать оборону, довольно легко зашли.
Хотя поди глупые приказы из Кремля отдавали

Не от боль шого ума Вы все это...
ЛДНР попросили ВВП о помощи! Что Вы пролагаете, Путин должен был занять побережье и чего-то ждать? Или все же идти штурмовать укрепления ВСУ? Вы сначала  попробуйте подумать, а потом ответьте. У Путина не было другого варианта действий, иначе он потеряет лицо! И даже в такой ситуации он нашел лучший вариант ведения боевых действий.  А то, что с юга зашли более легко, это объясняется тем, что ВСУ сами готовясь к наступательным действиям сняли все минные заграждения. Грх было не воспользоваться.
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