How the Ukrainians, with a drone, attacked the Russian artillery in Kherson

A Ukrainian soldier bears the name
A Ukrainian soldier nicknamed “Vetter” holds a Leleka-100 drone about to launch, cautiously navigating through a field Thursday in Ukraine’s Kherson region, strewn with Russian mines. (Heidi Levine for The Washington Post)

Kherson region, Ukraine – The discovery was made by two Ukrainian soldiers staring wide-eyed at their laptop screens, mounted in the boot of their SUV. They sat on a makeshift bench, the large plastic box of their drone. What they were looking at was about 25 miles away, deep in Russian-occupied Ukrainian territory.

It was a Russian artillery battery placed in a thin piece of tree line. The drone operator, Leonid Slobodian, started counting out loud as he zoomed in and took screenshots of the results. He saw at least five guns, trucks that probably had ammunition inside, and an anti-battery radar. This was what the Ukrainian military calls a “fat” target.

Beside him, Oleksandr Kapli sent out an audio message to the members of the 128th Mountain Attack Brigade who were also watching a live broadcast of the drone’s camera.

We need to smash this from front to back,” Capley said on his phone.

Then the expletive-filled reply: “Send in all the footage and we’ll do it [mess] up up. “

Drone video obtained by The Washington Post shows Russian forces coming under Ukrainian artillery fire on October 6, 2022. (Video: Courtesy of the “Falcon” unit of the Regional Defense Forces in Kryvyi Rih)

Russian forces in the Kherson region of southern Ukraine are trying to take control of the front line near the town of Dudchany next strategic retreat Along the western bank of the Dnieper River. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian army is trying to regain more territory before reinforcements arrive from the mobilization of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Falcon unit of the Kryvyi Rih Regional Defense Forces on Thursday allowed Washington Post reporters a rare glimpse into a day of battle here through the lens of their Ukrainian-made Leleka-100 aircraft, which looks like a small, gray plane. Moscow has more weapons than Kyiv, so strikes on “fat” targets – armored vehicles, ammunition reserves and artillery – such as those identified by the Falcon unit Thursday are how Ukraine can weaken its enemy and advance.

In the Kherson region, where the terrain is flat and fields are wide open, hiding this type of equipment from reconnaissance drones is a challenge for every aspect – something that will only increase with the fall of leaves and winter.

On Thursday, the Falcon unit was able to see through the trees. I located the Russian artillery battery, helped the Ukrainian artillery to target it, and then saw parts of it smashed.

“Our job is to determine how many reserves are coming, how strong these Russian fortifications are now, and keep track of all the military equipment,” Capley said. Then we pass it all on to the artillery forces, and they bomb everything possible. “

Kapli said Russian forces are now massing near the town of Milov to defend their stronghold in the occupied town of Nova Kakhovka on the opposite bank of the river. There, Moscow seized a hydroelectric power station that controls vital water supplies to Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014.

The artillery battery spotted by the Falcon unit was near the nearby village of Chervuni Yar. A second drone flight confirmed that the equipment was still in place, and Slobodian passed more screenshots of the location, reading its coordinates.

Neither he nor Capelli nor most of his unit had any combat experience prior to the massive Russian invasion. Slobodian and Gary Wagner, who runs the drone with him, were photographers for Ukrainian television channels before the war.

After fundraising, Falcon commander Ole Ladenko in April purchased a Leleka drone, which can fly 25 miles and stay in the air for two hours before needing a battery change. Sometimes the 128th Brigade would ask the Falcon to check out certain locations, or follow a Russian column of tanks to see where they were going. Other times, drone operators make their own discoveries.

The recent Russian withdrawal allowed the unit to advance into the recently liberated villages and fly over an area previously out of their camera range.

On Thursday, they launched their drone from the trench line the Russians had used for themselves until this week. While the plane was flying, some soldiers took careful steps around the nearby field, and fired at unexploded mines.

During one of Leleka’s excursions, they noticed on the screen that a second, longer trench line was near. Two soldiers went to explore it, and returned with souvenirs – baseball caps with the patches of the Russian flag and the letter “Z”, the symbol of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The retreating Russians left behind boxes of pear juice, which the unit drank with smiles on their faces.

With the help of the Starlink satellite Internet system, they worked from 8 in the morning until sunset. Around 2:45 p.m., they launched the drone on its penultimate flight of the day. Within minutes, I spotted smoke on the horizon, near where they recognized the enemy artillery battery of the 128th Brigade.

But as it approached, Slobodian realized that it was an adjacent tree line. The Russians tried to hide their equipment there as well, and it was spotted by another reconnaissance drone. Ideally, this is how you should operate, Capley said — one drone after another so you never lose coverage and more targets are identified. As long as something was burning, everyone in the unit was happy.

The Falcon’s job now was to keep its camera trained on the area and to ensure that the artillery supplied by the United States was striking accurately as the shells fell along the tree line. Soldiers crowded around the computer screen and cheered as they watched the explosions in real time.

“At least we have something to be happy about today,” Kabli said in an audio note to his companion in the 128th Brigade.

“Roast Meat,” Slobodian stretched out as another explosion flashed across the screen.

Then one hit hit a Russian Ural truck, causing a huge mushroom cloud over the place. It was full of ammunition. The men who were watching the screen also broke out. Now the enemy has fewer shells to attack with – and fewer guns to shoot.

“That was a nuclear explosion,” Capley said between his laughs. “We’ve been fighting for a while, but I haven’t seen an explosion like this.”

Slobodian rubbed his hands together. The “fat” situation they discovered would be next. Smoke rose above the trees again. They suspected that at least one Russian 152 mm gun had been hit. Their battery was running out of battery and needed to come back, but today it worked.

By Friday, they had moved on to new targets, where they had videotaped a Russian tank burning on the side of a different field.

The war in Ukraine: what you need to know

Last: Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decrees Friday to The annexation of four occupied regions of Ukraine, after interim referendums were widely denounced as illegal. Follow us Live updates here.

the answer: The Biden administration announced on Friday a New round of sanctions against RussiaIn response to the annexations, it targeted Russian and Belarusian government officials, family members, military officials, and defense procurement networks. As President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday, so is Ukraine Apply for a “quick ascent” to NATOIn clear response to the annexations.

In Russia: Putin announced military mobilization On September 21 to call up to 300,000 reserve soldiers In a dramatic attempt to reverse the setbacks in his war on Ukraine. advertising led to exodus From More than 180,000 peopleespecially The men who were subject to serviceAnd the Renewed protests and other acts of defiance against the war.

Fighting: Ukraine launched successful counterattack who – which Russia forced a major withdrawal in the northeastern Kharkiv region In early September, when the troops fled the cities and villages they had occupied since the early days of the war and Abandoned large amounts of military equipment.

Pictures: Washington Post photographers have been on the ground since the start of the war. Here are some of their most powerful works.

How you can help: Here are some of the ways they can do it in the United States Support the Ukrainian people Beside What people donate around the world.

Read our full coverage of Russia and Ukraine war. Are you on Telegram? Subscribe to our channel For updates and exclusive video.

Leave a Comment