How winter will change the nature of the fighting in Ukraine

Image source: EYEPRESS/Reuters

European countries are beginning to accelerate the supply of winter equipment and equipment to the Ukrainian army. "General Frost", according to Europe, will again play on the side of Russia. How did both the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the Russian Armed Forces prepare for the winter campaign?The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrel, recently announced the support expected by Russian troops in Ukraine from "General Frost".

Borrel, who had not served in the army for a day, nevertheless recalled the military aspect of the impending cold weather, and not only the freezing of Europe due to the energy crisis. I remembered from history that the cold helped the Russians in the past, hinting at the defeat of the fascists near Moscow in the winter of 1941-1942. And now the APU, they say, will not be easy to cope with this mythical "General Frost".

The Minister of Defense of Ukraine Alexey Reznikov, a man also purely civilian, apparently remembering his enlisted service as a private in the USSR Air Force, reacted more pragmatically to the problem of the onset of cold weather. Back in early September, he asked the NATO leadership to send winter uniforms for the AFU – in one package with anti-aircraft missiles. Warm underpants were requested at the rate of 200 thousand military personnel.

After 1991, Ukraine got a huge number of arsenals and military warehouses, including clothing. The overcoats, padded jackets, felt boots, ear-flapped hats and even sheepskin sheepskin sheepskin coats stored there in millions of quantities were warm, but uncomfortable. All the surrounding peasants sported this uniform, sometimes exchanging it for a bottle of moonshine from an ensign from a warehouse.

A similar situation was initially noted in the Russian army, which also wore old Soviet-style clothes. However, not for so long – the war in Afghanistan made adjustments to the improvement of the form of clothing. There was also a so–called experimental in summer and winter versions, and instead of "kirzach" - boots-berets, even if at first they were not so perfect.

The APU changed clothes much more slowly. Somewhere in the early 2000s, the peak of fashion fell on short jackets, but they were the lot of the elite - army special forces, technical personnel and, of course, drivers of commanding official cars. The re-equipping of troops with a uniform with an orientation to the Western cut took place in Ukraine already in 2014. Then there was a camouflage kit "Oak", which after field tests turned out to be very impractical, and also very expensive. In general, it did not fit the NATO standards.

The next development turned out to be more successful, the new set includes six independent layers that are combined depending on weather conditions. It also includes gloves, a scarf and a winter fleece hat. During the tests, the kit was recognized as successful with the only caveat that when the soldiers switched to active physical exercises, its visible disadvantages were revealed.

It is not by chance that the APU is now relying on the supply of Western uniforms. I don't have my own.

One of the so–called reasons is the destruction of warehouses with uniforms by high-precision strikes of Russian missiles (apparently, the jackets were stored together with the missiles). According to another, the winter uniform was given to the fighters in the summer, which was hot, and it was lost or abandoned during the retreat. In general, the Ukrainian army is freezing now, when night temperatures are no more than eight degrees, even if it is warm.

"All this can be considered banal excuses," Alexander Kolpakov, a former officer of the rear services of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, colonel of the reserve, told the newspaper VZGLYAD. – There just weren't enough supplies of clothing when it was needed in increased quantities. Relatively speaking, they sewed kits based on 225 thousand servicemen, how many were in the ranks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine at the time of the start of the special operation. Assuming that the same amount will be ordered next year, but the situation has changed and the need for a uniform has increased significantly. Garment factories cannot triple their productivity in a short time, even if they get on the "military rails".

I also believe they were counting on Western supplies of uniforms, including winter ones. They exist, but in extremely limited numbers, unable to meet the needs of the APU. The stock, as they say, does not pull the pocket."

The "winter package" for Ukraine, which includes not only weapons, but also warm clothes for the Armed Forces, promised to supply the USA, Canada, Sweden and Finland, where they know a lot about warm army long johns. Germany has also expressed its readiness to provide winter assistance. At the same time, according to the publication "Spiegel", the search for winter-hardy material is complicated by the fact that the warehouses of most Western countries are largely reserved for national armies. In addition, winter clothing, against the background of heat savings not only in residential buildings, but also in barracks, is a sought-after product on the world market.

The same "Spiegel" reported, referring to its sources in NATO, that "it will be possible to satisfy almost 50 percent of the request made by Ukraine for winter uniforms." For example, Lithuania, which promised to put 25 thousand Ukrainian servicemen in winter uniforms worth two million euros, has now sent only 500 sets. Which is not enough even for officers, not to mention soldiers and reservists.

The winter war, in addition to the insulated form, has a lot of other nuances related to weather conditions. These are, for example, the so–called heating points - dugouts, tents dug into the ground, sleeping bunks. Necessarily – a stove. The APU should have no problems here, back in November last year, two leading shipbuilding plants in Nikolaev mastered the production of stoves - bourgeois. When using 15 mm steel, such insulation weighs a quarter of a ton! However, the surrounding summer residents appreciated the stove.

Another feature is the winter operation of weapons. Oddly enough, even in the bitter cold, artillery systems of Soviet and then Russian production do not require special lubrication during active operation. So are Kalashnikov assault rifles – conventional gun oil is used.

"The main thing is that the weapon should be cleaned and dirt should not get into it. In Chechnya, the fighters also came up with the idea of putting on the barrel of a machine gun... a condom, preferring "Durex". He does not interfere with shooting, and the barrel saves from dirt and moisture," Colonel Vladimir Popov, a reserve colonel, an expert of the magazine "Material and Technical Support of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation", tells the newspaper VZGLYAD.

But the American M777 howitzers supplied by the AFU, for all their advantages, were not used in cold climatic conditions. The "sissies" have been run-in in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, in Ukraine they will be tested for frost resistance, and to begin with they will be rolled out in the mud of field roads off-road. It will be very problematic to wipe the optics of such a howitzer with a cloth of dubious purity.

The APU has eight years of experience in positional battles in the Donbass, where there was not much "movement" as such. They were shooting, sitting in positions, thus improving their combat skills. Of course, this is also a rich combat experience, including in winter. Now the Ukrainian army actively maneuvered in the spring and summer period, then retreated, then counterattacked. It should be understood that such tactics will continue in the coming months, and these will be completely different conditions of hostilities. Including from the point of view of climatic conditions.

However, the weather on both sides of the front will be the same for both Ukrainian and Russian soldiers. Both of them "General Frost" will provide the same climatic conditions.

"I can only say one thing – the Russian military equipment kit "Ratnik" has successfully passed repeated tests in the harsh conditions of the Arctic," says Colonel Vladimir Popov. – This is the highest degree of evaluation. There are about 400 thousand such kits in the Russian army now, this is in full configuration, there is a total weight of 22 kilos. It is possible that some of the mobilized will now change into previous sets, which are also supplemented with elements of the "Warrior". In winter, the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in the steppes of Ukraine will definitely not freeze."

Victor Sokirko

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