Troops of the Russian ‘armored train’ train behind the combat zone

The Russian military might be preparing to deploy its armored train to the front lines in Ukraine soon. Footage shared among Chinese media platforms reveals the regiment’s training activities on this military railroad vehicle. Sources from China report that this training was conducted at a safe distance from the active combat zones. 

Troops of the Russian 'armored train' train behind the combat zone
Photo by Vladimir Tyukayev

In the Russian military’s arsenal, there are three armored trains. They are named the Volga, Yenisei, and Baikal respectively. Among these, Baikal boasts a more extended service history, while Volga and Yenisei only made their debut in 2022, around the onset of the Ukraine conflict. 

As of now, the Baikal armored train is actively partaking in what Russia and its media outlets refer to as a “special military operation” in Ukraine.

Troops of the Russian 'armored train' train behind the combat zone
Photo by Dmitry Rogulin

The purpose of Baikal

From the onset of the conflict, Baikal has played an active role. As early as March of last year, Western media outlets commenced reporting on the train’s involvement in Russian military activities. The first sighting was registered on March 9, 2022, approximately 25 km north of Melitopol, a city in Ukraine. 

Data assembled from various sources suggests that the train comprises two diesel locomotives and eight motor cars, with two armored vehicles consistently accompanying the locomotives. The carriages situated directly behind these are furnished with two twin-barreled ZU-23 automatic cannons with a caliber of 23 millimeters. 

Russia showed its railway 'armored fortress' Baikal in the war zone
Video screenshot

Further, the train accommodates a passenger and a command car, both of which are armored, and also has a flatbed car attached at the end of the train set. However, the specifics of the central part of the assembly remain undisclosed. This concealed part could potentially house a long-range anti-aircraft missile system or a complete air defense setup. We should bear in mind that Russia has a unique train designed especially for the transport and launch of ballistic missiles. 

Deploying Baikal is also purposed to safeguard the Russian army’s military supplies stationed in the vicinity of the war zone. This implies a measure of alertness and indicates a possibility of Ukraine launching assaults on these supplies situated deep within Russian military territory, possibly through the execution of sabotage groups.

What do Russian troops train?

The identity of the third armored train shown in the video conducting drills remains uncertain. Nevertheless, the exercise depicts Russian troops, seemingly preparing for swift ground force deployment, emanating from this enigmatic armored train. 

The ZU-23 anti-aircraft guns stay vigilant for possible air threats whilst multiple armored personnel carriers roll out expeditiously from the wagon’s cargo bays. These carriers are heavily equipped with a light machine gun and an anti-tank gun, all set for combat. 

Intriguingly, the video captures a distinct aspect of Russian military maneuvers. Russian soldiers alight from at least two armored personnel carriers, forming a column of two, and pace themselves to follow the armored personnel carrier. This peculiar exercise is referred to as an “offensive” or a “sabotage task force”. 

Russia showed its railway 'armored fortress' Baikal in the war zone
Video screenshot

One could infer from the long distance between the train and the deployed armored personnel carriers during the exercise that the train was possibly involved in dropping off equipment and soldiers. Subsequently, it retracted from the battle scene, indicating a potential engagement strategy.

Control over the railways

At present, Russian forces have comprehensive dominance over land transportation in the Crimean Peninsula. Here, in its largest city, Sevastopol, the Russian Black Sea Fleet has established its headquarters. 

Russian rule extends to railroads in the Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, Mykolayiv, and Zaporizhzhya regions. In one or possibly all of these areas, Russian armored trains are speculated to play a more active role in military operations through resource distribution. 

Russia showed its railway 'armored fortress' Baikal in the war zone
Video screenshot

One potential mission for these armored trains in these Ukrainian areas could be the surveillance of railroads for potential acts of subversion by Ukraine, like the installation of explosives beneath the railroad tracks. In a video released last year by the Russian Federation’s Ministry of Defense, soldiers from the Baikal armored train were depicted inspecting a specialized road for explosive devices and rehearsing their removal.

Briefly about the Volga and Yenisei trains

The Volga, referred to by the call sign ‘Breakthrough’, is an armored train presently deployed by Russia amidst the 2022 Ukraine conflict. 

The Volga’s primary use diverges from that of its counterpart, the Yenisei. Unlike the Yenisei, the main tasks of the Volga are somewhat different. These include engineering, conducting reconnaissance, demining operations. The troops on this train are also trained to repair damaged railway lines. Volga also escorts cargo entering war zones in Ukraine.

The Yenisei, much like the Volga, is an armored train used by Russia during the ongoing 2022 Ukraine invasion. As per Ukrainian intelligence, the construction of the Yenisei was facilitated using parts allegedly stolen from the Ukrainian Railways, specifically from the Kharkiv region.

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