Long-desired anti-tank weapons finally make their way into Ukrainian armories
After years of negotiations and lobbying, Javelin anti-tank guided missiles have arrived in Ukraine, as confirmed by American officials. According to the Ukrainian Minister of Defense, soldiers of the Ukrainian Armed Forces started training with the American-made missile complexes on Wednesday, May 2.
This week, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Oleksandr Turchynov shared videos of a training session in which Ukrainian troops used the Javelins in exercises.
A March 2018 news release from the U.S. State Department disclosed what equipment was delivered to Ukraine: “two hundred ten (210) Javelin Missiles and thirty-seven (37) Javelin Command Launch Units (CLUs).” Additionally, the U.S. is providing an unknown number of trainers to assist the Ukrainian Armed Forces in gaining proficiency with the anti-tank guided missile systems.
Poroshenko and Turchynov’s Visit
On Tuesday, Oleksandr Turchynov shared a video of Ukrainian troops using Javelins in exercises from an unidentified firing range.
President Poroshenko did the same with a video showing both an interview with himself and Ukrainian troops becoming acquainted with the American anti-tank guided missile system.
Speaking about the arrival of the American Javelins, Poroshenko, who has long lobbied in both Ukraine and the United States for this advanced weapons system, called the weapons delivery a “dream come true.” Poroshenko stressed that the weapons would only be used “in the event of Russian offensive on the positions of Ukrainian troops,” and that the U.S. delivery of these weapons is symbolic of the cooperation between the two countries.
These Javelin weapons were trained far from the front-line and in Ukraine’s Chernihiv Oblast, just a few dozen kilometers from the Ukraine-Belarus border.
A long path with a slight curve was visible in the footage from Turchynov’s Facebook. This same path was visible in a recent video report from the Goncharovskoe firing range in the Chernihiv Oblast in northern Ukraine.
When looking at satellite imagery of the Goncharovskoe firing range, we can find this approximate camera position, facing towards the northwest. The newly-built area for soldier housing is on the west edge of the firing range.
The geolocation of this training exercises shows how Ukraine is not deploying these Javelin systems for training anywhere near the front lines, in contrast to a training exercise with the controversial so-called “Azov Battalion” near Mariupol that used American-made PSRL-1 rocket-propelled grenade launchers. The training ground where the Javelins were tested is almost 600 kilometers from the front line in eastern Ukraine.
Disinformation Around Javelins
The arrival of Javelins has, predictably, led to some disinformation from Russian and separatist media outlets. The pro-Kremlin news website Ukraina.ru shared what should have been an obvious joke from the pro-Kremlin/Assad Telegram channel Go338. In the Go338 Telegram posts, they jokingly suggested that Ukrainian soldiers should sell the newly-arrived Javelin rockets, offering “your income for 30 years” and that it is “a path to a stable life,” including a photograph of a mansion and nice car with the caption “life after selling a Javelin.”
In another post, Go338 asked, “And how much can the militants get in Russia for a Javelin?” The meme also included a series of smiley faces.
However, Ukraina.ru didn’t report on the levity of the post. On Wednesday, they published a story with the headline “Ukrainian Servicemen Were Offered to Sell Javelins,” detailing how Go338 “offered an exit for Ukrainian soldiers who have access to Javelins,” with a note on how these Ukrainian soldiers can receive up to $200,000 for each Javelin.
The arrival of Javelins in Ukraine has been anticipated for years, and this weeks marks the first public training session of Ukrainian soldiers with the weapons. However, it is clear that Ukraine is very conscious of the sensitivity around the American-made weapons, as its training exercise was nearly 500 kilometers away from the front-line. In 2017, when training with less potent American-made weapons, Ukraine ran into a minor scandal when a controversial far-right group in the National Guard tested the weapons near the front line east of Mariupol.
These issues will not likely resurface with Javelins, especially considering the extensive personal lobbying that President Poroshenko waged to receive the weapons.
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