NY TimesIs That an R-330Zh Zhitel on the Road in Crimea?
Reporter’s Instagram on Russian Military Equipment
By C. J. CHIVERS
APRIL 2, 2014
PEREVALNOYE, Crimea — As Russian troops and extralegal militias swiftly seized Crimea from Ukraine, President Vladimir V. Putin maintained a falsehood. The impressively equipped and disciplined conventional troops that enveloped Ukrainian military bases, he said, were not Russian.
In doing so, the Kremlin missed an opportunity to highlight a significant logistical and strategic success: the broad overhaul of Russian military forces that has been many years in the works. In Crimea, a newly refitted element of the Russian Army was visible in action for the first time.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia’s army had relied principally on dated equipment and conscripted personnel. To observe Russian units through 2008 was to see a tired and dilapidated force. It was, in the eyes of many Russian veterans, a national shame, even if it easily batted aside an inept Georgian army six years ago.
The rapid-deployment Russian forces that showed up in Crimea were utterly different.
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Better-equipped Russian troops in Crimea in March.
Crimea Offers Showcase for Russia’s Rebooted MilitaryAPRIL 2, 2014
As Tyler Hicks, Noah Sneider and I walked and drove among these remolded Russian units, I snapped images using my iPhone that showed details of a force in the midst of an upgrade – encrypted tactical radios in the hands of low-level troops, new or specialized firearms, and state-of-the-art electronic jamming equipment being transported along the Crimean roads. (When the Russian forces launched operations against Ukrainian bases, phones in the area often went dead.)
The iPhone, though a limited photographic tool, did offer advantages over a traditional camera in the peculiar circumstances of Crimea. Not only was it unobtrusive, but when a phone signal was available I could swiftly email photographs to an inbox, an easy safeguard against Russian troops or the armed men who worked with them who stopped journalists and demanded that images be deleted, a common occurrence on the peninsula in recent weeks. The images could then be posted on Instagram, creating a public record for sources to help analyze.
Here, from that Instagram account, are a series of images of Russian troops and their equipment that show a force emerging from a long period of decrepitude.
One image shows some of the Russian military’s updated “Ratnik” (from the Russian for “warrior”) kit, including a new helmet and ballistic goggles. But more important is the machine gun. It is a Pecheneg, a modern replacement for the long-serving PK machine gun line, a Soviet and Russian staple since the 1960s.
[IMAGES AT LINK]
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