Why Russia is building a 30-km-long ‘tsar train’ barrier

Russian forces have implemented an innovative

defensive strategy

in

Ukraine

‘s Donetsk region, utilizing a vast array of freight carriages to form a

barrier

against Ukrainian troops. This “

tsar train

,” stretching approximately 30 kilometers (just under 19 miles) between the Russian-controlled towns of Olenivka and Volnovakha, serves as a formidable obstacle close to the front lines in eastern Ukraine.

Driving the news
According to the Ukrainian open-source intelligence tracker DeepState, the tsar train comprises around 2,100 freight carriages. This unique engineering structure’s effectiveness remains uncertain, but its primary purpose is clear: to hinder the advancement of Ukrainian Defense Forces. The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a US-based think tank, suggests that the train may act as a defensive line against future Ukrainian assaults or for other, yet unknown reasons.
Zoom in

As per the ISW report, satellite imagery from May 2023 and February 2024 reveals the extensive line of carriages linking Olenivka and Volnovakha.

Russia

began assembling the tsar train in July 2023, indicating a strategic move to bolster its defenses in a region marked by intense conflict. DeepState notes, “It can be considered as a separate line of defense, because it is extremely difficult to damage, move or blow up a 30-kilometer-long [19-mile] mass of metal, and the movement of equipment through such an obstacle without breaking through the corridor is impossible.”

Between the Lines
The railway line’s strategic positioning, less than four miles from the front line at its closest point, underscores its significance in the ongoing conflict. This development comes as the Donetsk region witnesses some of the heaviest fighting, with Olenivka and Volnovakha lying just east of critical front lines. The construction of the tsar train in a relatively inactive area of the front suggests a preemptive measure to solidify Russian defenses.
This strategic deployment of the “tsar train” by Russian forces in eastern Ukraine represents a significant development in the conflict, showcasing both the innovative and traditional aspects of military engineering in modern warfare.

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