For a long time they were especially important for Ukraine on the front. The use of Russian drones has changed their work.

A hooded Ukrainian soldier with a rifle.

Sniper in Lugansk Photo: Yuri Larin

FROM THE LUHANSK TERRITORY taz | In Ukraine, the Ministry of Defense has equipped the armed forces' snipers with new rifles and sufficient cartridges. But that matters less than you would like. “In movies it often seems as if sniper rifles shoot like laser weapons: where you aim, they hit you. But it's not like that,” says Alexei, a 20-year-old night sniper and group leader of the Ukrainian 81st Airborne Brigade.

It is located in a military training zone in Donbass. A strong wind is blowing, almost hurricane-force. Here they train shooting at 600, 800 and 1,000 meters. Alexei has been fighting in the war since he was 18 and has already been involved in firefights with enemy riflemen. The young man was deployed in several critical points of the Russian-Ukrainian front in the Lugansk region, such as Sievierodonetsk and Rubizhne. He is currently in the Bilohorivka district, which is also in the region and where Russian units have been launching repeated offensives for months.

Snipers are the main soldiers of the Ukrainian armed forces. Their training period is at least 45 days. Then they continue training. In addition to the standard equipment of all soldiers, snipers have expensive additional equipment, including a sniper rifle, telescopic sight, scopes and tripod, worth a total of $17,000. A cartridge alone costs about $17.

The group leader shows a small weather station that shows wind speed and direction, air temperature and humidity. Without taking this information into account, it is impossible to make accurate hits at long distances.

Many factors influence an injection.

“This is a difficult job. It's not enough to be in good physical shape, you also have to be able to do something technically. “You have to know where it is best to lie down, where they will not suspect you or look for you,” explains Alexei, shooting several times at 800 meters. Due to the strong wind, only the fifth shot was successful. If this were a real battle, Alexei's position would have already been discovered and he would have been attacked with a mortar or a drone.

The work of frontline snipers has changed significantly in the last year due to the widespread use of drones, the soldier says. Both thermal imaging drones that detect targets at night and drones that drop munitions during the day are used. “Now there is a technological war.” There are many factors that could reveal your own position.

“Even if you have thermal camouflage or are well camouflaged, if you have no cover and a drone follows you, you will be shot down immediately. And when you are on the ground, it is even worse,” says Alexei. Nowadays, snipers have to change positions very often. Gone are the days when you could stay in one place for days and wait for the right destination.

“Drones are changing the strategy of war”

The former coach and teacher, now a sniper of the 81st Brigade, Dmytro, also talks about a difficult situation. “The drone is an enemy that has simply changed the war strategy,” he says. However, despite the technological war, the prioritization of objectives remains the same: “A sniper looks for a sniper,” says the former trainer. Then by officers, commanders. “We are looking for helicopter pilots, grenade launchers and mortar cannons. Our job is the same: come, train, go and survive.”

From Alexei's perspective, the media's depiction of the Russian military as ill-equipped, incompetent and unmotivated is not true. Under no circumstances should the Russian military be underestimated; That would entail cruel revenge. In Bilohorivka, Russian pressure does not stop, says Alexei. The occupiers have huge reserves and are constantly bringing new soldiers to the front.

Dmytro says the Russians have more men and weapons. However, Ukraine is on the defensive, so it may reduce the military potential of the Russians. “If they have 100 percent, we have 15 percent, that's my opinion,” says the fighter about the proportion of resources. However, a sniper could single-handedly disrupt an attack with one or two accurate shots and spread fear among opponents. Despite the large number of Russian drones.

From Russian: Gaby Coldewey