Russia Has Launched a Strategic Campaign vs Rail but Still Won’t Target Railway Bridges Over Dnieper

Started wrecking rail on a big scale just as Blinken and Austin were in Ukraine by train

Now targeting bridges…just not the really key ones…

In early April Russia started a sustained war against rail hubs directly behind the Donbass battlefield.

It also targeted rail elsewhere in Ukraine, particularly in the west of the country, but only sporadically so.

This recently changed.

On April 25 the Russians targeted a host of railway hubs in western Ukraine in a systematic fashion. Five were hit within an hour in the morning and at least one more later on.

The Russians did not target rail itself, but transformer substations that keep rail lines electrified.

The Russian military, using long-range precision weapons, destroyed six traction substations at the railway stations of Ukraine, “through which foreign weapons and military equipment are supplied to the Ukrainian group of troops in the Donbass.” This was announced on Monday by the representative of the Russian Ministry of Defense Igor Konashenkov. 

This gave heart to some Russian commentators:

The echelons that transport goods for the Armed Forces of Ukraine are pulled mainly by electric locomotives, noted the military analyst Yuri Podolyaka. Therefore, the decommissioning of traction power plants is of great strategic importance.

“If the Russian command continues to strike at Ukrainian substations, this could be a much more effective solution than hitting railway bridges,” Podolyaka said.

I am not so sure that de-electrifying Ukrainian lines is that valuable.

De-electrification would mean that Ukraine would have to fall back on using diesel locomotives alone. And according to the Russian commentator Sergei Sigachev its fleet of diesel locomotives is rather small. (Apparently 1627 electric vs 301 diesel. Another breakdown has it at 1738 electric and 756 diesel in 2017.)

So if complete de-electrification could be achieved and maintained that would doubtlessly have serious consequences for Ukraine’s industry and economy. (The main users of rail.)

However military trains are always going to be given highest priority so with 301 diesel engines around it might be entirely possible to keep moving military cargoes around without much fuss.

It sounds like in order to interrupt high-priority transports the rail lines would have to be cut, not just de-electrified.

Also, it is not clear how successful Russia’s de-electrification salvo was.

Ukrainian Railways first reported medium (an hour or two) to long (several hours) delays for many of its passenger lines but then reported having quickly eliminated most of them in just a day or two.

Initially significant delays were announced on the 25th (incomplete list)

This is not conclusive since we don’t know if passenger trains are pulled by diesel or electric locomotives. Nonetheless, it would seem to eliminate the possibility that Ukraine’s ability to supply the military by rail was dealt a particularly grievous blow.

If it is able to move civilians (and on time!) — it is likely also able to move weapons and ammunition.

Uzhgorod to Lozova highlighted. Expected arrival delay on April 26: 1 hour 52 minutes

Particularly interesting is the Ukrainian Railways reporting — a day after the strikes — that its passenger train all way from the Slovak border in Uzhgorod to Lozova in Donbass arrived just 2 hours late.

Lozova is just 50 kilometers from the Russian positions south of Izyum from which the main Russian attack vs Donbass is proceeding.

That Ukrainians are apparently still able to reach Lozova casts a question mark, not just on the de-electrification strikes of April 25th, but even on their longer-fought campaign vs rail in Donbass.

It seems more and more certain that hitting the Dnieper bridges presents the best chance of actually crippling Ukrainian rail by far. Yet this has not even been attempted. The Us has so far counted 1900 precision-guided missiles fired by the Russians. Only one has ever targeted a Dnieper bridge.

Is there some kind of Russian taboo against targeting bridges? Apparently no. The very next day the Russians hit a strategic bridge in the southwest. The strike didn’t deal critical damage so the very next day it was retargeted, after which the Ukrainians in a roundabout way admitted the bridge was rendered unusable.

The strike leaves Ukraine’s Budjak region cut off from the rest of the country, reachable only by road through Moldova.

The strike against this bridge came on the same day as giant antennas were blown up in nearby Transnistria probably by Ukrainian special forces. The destruction of the bridge may have contributed further to the fuel glut being felt in Odessa and elsewhere in Ukraine.

So then, there is no taboo on striking bridges per se just on striking the most strategically important bridges across the Dnieper? Very strange.

Since the 25th there has been some retargeting of transformer substations (albeit not on the scale of the first day) so it seems the Russian side thinks this is the way to go.

Ironically the 25th coincided with the visit to Kiev by the US secretaries of Defense and State. Austin and Blinken. They had traveled to Kiev by train. Yes, just before their return trip Russia wrecked Ukraine’s railway infrastructure in regions they were to pass. Somebody in Moscow has a sense of humor?

In late 1944 the Allies thoroughly wrecked Germany’s railway system with a campaign against her railway marshaling grounds. Marshaling grounds represent big targets that are easier to hit than a solitary line. Also it is far more work to rebuild 20 or 30 parallel rails than a single track. Void of marshaling grounds to break up and rebuild compositions,  to get slower trains out of the way of faster ones, and to unload them without obstructing trains just passing through the station, German railways became clogged with trains. The Germans at times resorted to derailing trains on purpose just to free up tracks — not that it made a difference.

It is doubtful that Russia could repeat this. Even counting just the bombs that hit (a small minority) the quantity of ordnance expended to accomplish this was enormous by today’s standards.

Substation

Electric substations are more delicate than marshaling grounds and more difficult to reconstruct. If you only have so many precision-guided missiles to expend on railway wars, then substations are probably the weak point to go for ahead of marshaling grounds.

That said, there is really no weaker point than a bridge. Especially in Ukraine where the country is bisected by a giant river crossed by just 9 railways. Russia’s persistent attempt to reinvent the wheel and disable rail without going for the one thing that is sure to work is puzzling.

Its Iskander ballistic missiles have a powerful 700-kilogram warhead and in advanced configurations are 50% accurate to 5-7 meters.

16 Comments
  1. guest says

    It, of course, is an admission of the failure of the Army of Liberation in Donetsk.

    Is it true that the Ministry of War announced that in 55 days 13,000 Russian soldiers died and 7,000 are missing (presumed dead) ?

    >>>> “Uzhgorod to Lozova highlighted. Expected arrival delay 1 hour 52 minutes”
    That is about how it used to be in the Soviet Union.

  2. ken says

    It seems the Russians are never doing enough according to some. Well, if the Ukronazis do swap to oil locomotives that will dramatically reduce the oil for other things like tanks, guns, aircraft, trucks, etc.

    The Russians seem to be on a mission to SAVE Ukraine,,, not DESTROY it unless they are FORCED to do it. Everyone seems to miss that.

    Of course, Ukraine will have to be rebuilt. The more destroyed the more contract$ to rebuild. As the West is continuing this ‘war’ I imagine there will be much more destruction, so be patient.

    1. guest says

      “not one foot of American soil can ever be wrenched from the jurisdiction of the Constitution of the United States until it is baptized in fire and blood.” —July 4, 1861, U.S. House of Representatives
      Shortly after that, the imperialists did unleash fire and blood, and human gore; until 600,000 died and the South was de-Nazified.
      Because no one should entertain (much less act on) the idea of national independence, sovereignty, self-determination —everyone must submit to the Empire or be exterminated.

      Like the rasputin preacher said, everyone and everything —from Vladivostok to Konigsberg (including Estonia, Lattvia, Lithuania), from Leningrad to Gruzia— must be part of Mother Russia and subject of the central government in Moscow.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XaGFHQOwGeM

      1. ken says

        The attempted dissolution of the Southern States from the Union was perfectly acceptable at the time. There was no insurrection nor was there a ‘civil war’ as the Southern states simply wanted to leave the voluntary union and they wanted no part of Washington DC. There was no fighting over the capitol.

        The North invaded the South illegally. The North burned down cities, farms, and private homes. The Yankees were allowed nights on the town where women and children of all colors were raped and killed. Land was stolen,,, legislators were made to vote to approve the 14th amendment at gunpoint before the state was ‘allowed’ back into the Union which makes the ratification of the 14th totally illegal.

        1789 is when the founders overthrew the Articles of Confederation and the new country started its journey to tyranny. 1861 was when ‘these united States’ became ‘The United States’ and marked the beginning of the end. 1913 was the midpoint and 2001 was the end. The US no longer exists as a constitutional republic. It is a hybrid of fascistic and communistic ideology which I doubt will last much longer.

    2. guest says

      a) you don’t like the concept of national sovereignty; the concept of small nation-states (common gene-pool); you like empires. I hope you don’t support the racist plan of building a wall along the border with Mexico and keeping aliens out —that would put you into the Nazi camp, and you don’t like Nazis.

      b) Putin is now burning cities, farms, private homes; but you like Putin so you agree with what he is doing. In the zero decade Putin was burning Chechnia —you cheered for that too ?

      There is no difference between Putin’s Cheka and William Seward’s State Department & secret service; but you like the Cheka

      c) your remarks clearly indicate that you have no idea what “fascism” is; what “communism” is;
      Russia is not fascist, but it is a lot closer to fascism than anyone else on the planet today
      U.S. is exact opposit of what the fascist concept is (Andrew Jackson’s supporters were the closest thing to fascist, in the history of U.S.)

      1. Oscar Peterson says

        “Russia is not fascist, but it is a lot closer to fascism than anyone else on the planet today
        U.S. is exact opposit of what the fascist concept is (Andrew Jackson’s supporters were the closest thing to fascist, in the history of U.S.)”

        Actually, Israel is closer to a fascist state than Russia is. Chechnya has some autonomy under ruler. The Palestinians will never get that. And China, with its much greater degree of social and political control under the nationalist CCP is also closer to fascism than Russia. India may be on the way with its Hindutva.

        Yes, the US might be said to the be the opposite of fascist in the sense of having lost whatever core nationalism it once possessed, if, that is, you see nationalism as the core element in fascism. If you agree with Arendt that fascism is the fusion of capitalism and the state, then that’s another matter.

        And Andrew Jackson’s “followers” were not fascists in any meaningful sense. Are you simply referring to the demands for Indian removal? Fascism is more than just that. The Jacksonian democrats were way too hostile to state power to be fascists. Yeah, they were willing for the power of the state to remove Indians, but they were against the central bank, distrustful of the Federal government in general. They were more tribalisms loyal to their own localities than worshippers of the central state. Huey Long and his loyalists, a century later, might arguably be classified as fascists, although he claimed to be on the left.

  3. guest says

    Is it real ? or is it anti-Putin propaganda ?
    http://www.yamaguchy.com/images/putinKiss.jpg
    Could it be that Russian soldiers sunk so low ?

      1. guest says

        So it IS a photo of real event. Some Rasputin preacher (like Artemy Vladimirov) lined up stupid-dumb animals to kiss the portrait of some idol. Anti-Putin individuals merely doctored the photo.

        This is the level at which Russian young people are ?!?

        1. Oscar Peterson says

          What level do you want Russian young people to be at?

          People want some tradition sometimes.

          Why does that enrage you so?

  4. jimbogoofball says

    This sounds like the fire truck story at the stell plant. Those would have been a very effective way to kill nazis in the tunnels. So Putin cancels that move and the nazis are still alive under the plant. This is the same thing. REFUSE to use anything effective like blowing up the bridges or use firetrucks. Now nazis get to carry on without retaliation. The shipments will continue to come into donbass and Putin is allowing it PURPOSELY. They know Putin will save them for his partners. I hope somebody pops Putin and then replace him with a guy that WILL use effective means to kill these nazis and kazars. DISPOSE OF PUTIN.

  5. ken says

    Their are others being held at gunpoint by the Ukraine nazis. Some Ukrainian regulars and some civilians. I commend Putin for trying to resolve the issue with minimum casualties. Of course if the nazis kill the regulars and civilians I am sure this will end up as a Russian genocide of innocents and nazis per the Western Mocking Bird media. .

  6. SteveK9 says

    Marko, if you don’t know this guy, you should … Rolo Slavskiy. You think alike.

    https://www.unz.com/article/the-ukraine-debacle/

  7. SteveK9 says

    What do you think of this idea?

    https://interaffairs.ru/news/show/35004

    “I think the turn will soon reach the main railway station through which all deliveries pass. This station is called Chop, on the border between Hungary, Slovakia and Ukraine. At this station, railway cars are being “changed shoes” from the European narrow gauge to the broad Russian gauge. Now, if this station is destroyed, then there will be no arms supplies from Poland through Ukraine. There is another way through Romania, through Moldova, but I’m not very sure that the Moldovans are ready to let these trains through so as not to be drawn into the hostilities in Ukraine. “

    1. guest says

      a) Hungary is NOT the route through which military supplies are transported to Ukraine. Why would the guy say this ? The reason why EU has a beef with Viktor Orban is his refusal to allow military supplies to go through Hungary. For this reason the government of Ukraine is upset with Orban, too.

      b) that city is Hungarian territory; Russia would be attacking a friendly country
      c) that city is NATO territory; Russia would be attacking NATO

      1. Oscar Peterson says

        “b) that city is Hungarian territory; Russia would be attacking a friendly country
        c) that city is NATO territory; Russia would be attacking NATO”

        No.

        “Chop (Ukrainian: Чоп, Hungarian: Csap) is a railway station that is located in a small city of Chop, Zakarpattia Oblast in Ukraine. It is part of the Uzhhorod administration (Lviv Railways).”

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chop_railway_station

        I agree that stopping rail traffic from Hungary and Slovakia will have only a marginal effect on weapons and equipment coming into Ukraine.

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