These engineering works include concrete-lined trenches, barbed wire, dragon’s teeth, anti-tank ditches, and plenty of anti-tank and anti-personnel mines

Monday, July 24th, 2023

During World War II, German soldiers marveled at how skillfully Red Army troops used a shovel, and Russian engineers seem to have lost none of their skill:

“Russian constructions follow traditional military plans for entrenchment, largely unchanged since the Second World War,” British military intelligence said in a December statement about Russian activity in Luhansk.

The problem for Ukraine is that since late last year, Russian forces have been building up their defensive positions in eastern Ukraine and along the northern approaches to Crimea. These engineering works include concrete-lined trenches, barbed wire, dragon’s teeth, anti-tank ditches, and plenty of anti-tank and anti-personnel mines, and they “pose a major tactical challenge to Ukrainian offensive operations,” the RUSI report said.

Each Russian brigade has two engineer companies, which is roughly comparable to the engineer battalion attached to a US brigade combat team. One company focuses on building fortifications, while the other lays and clears mines.

There is an initial line of infantry foxholes. Behind this is a second line of trenches and concrete firing posts, screened by multiple obstacle belts — each a little over a half mile wide — and comprising barbed wire, dragon’s teeth, and anti-tank ditches about 20 feet wide and 13 feet deep.

The second line isn’t continuously manned but rather consists of company-size positions in wooded areas and on ridgelines, placed so that the defenses are entirely covered by fire.

The third line, about 3 miles back from the initial outpost line, consists of fallback positions and concealed areas for reserves. And these fortified zones may have several echelons of Russian units.

“The overall depth of defensive fortifications exceeds 30 kilometers (19 miles) on some axes,” the RUSI report, which was based on interviews with Ukrainian military officers, said.


Perhaps the most formidable part of Russian defenses is mines, which the Russians “have no shortage of,” the report said.


Clearing minefields is difficult because Russian mines have multiple triggers and anti-tampering devices. The RUSI report said it’s common for Russian antipersonnel mines “to be initiated by a seismic sensor and to have an immediately adjacent mine initiated by wires, which are laid out in a cross from the device.”

Russia has also laid “instant” fields of magnetically activated anti-tank mines that are deployed using multiple rocket launchers.


  1. VXXC says:

    This war is being run on the Western side by journos and college kids playing war from DC — really mostly narrative — and by cold professionals on the Russian side.

    Let me see from that link: no air, so taking offensive action based on ground air defense, offensive halted by the most predictable and known dense defenses since WW2, with freshly trained troops, since the trained Ukrainian army died last year. (No, they didn’t train in record time. They were rushed through and check the block.)

    The Russians are applying the same methods they used since WW2, and the Ukrainians are being slaughtered to no point.

    The Russians have been content to let the Ukrainians batter themselves to death on ill-considered offensives the entire war. If the Ukrainians aren’t reinforcing encirclement, they charge in as the Russians withdraw and paste them with artillery, frontal assaults, and now this madness. They’re attacking with artillery inferiority and no air, insufficient air defense, into 18-mile-deep prepared defenses.

    You cannot compare this to WW1, with the possible exceptions of the Italians attacking up into the mountains held by the Austrians (to pointless slaughter).

  2. Bob Sykes says:

    The Ukrainians who assaulted the Russian lines were murdered by their own leaders. They attacked over open flat country without any air support or defense and with minimal artillery support. They never got out of the mine fields. This was worse than the Somme in 1916; at least the Brits had artillery support.

  3. VXXC says:

    Western militaries are equipped to lose the last wars, which fall into 3 types:

    1] WW1 Western Front Trenches

    2] WW2 mobile warfare [ok we're good at that]

    3] Colonial Warfare: we will lose for winning. In fact, we win, then quit [French Algeria, South Vietnam, etc].

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