Homemade “DIY” weapons strengthen Ukraine’s war arsenal

Homemade “DIY” weapons strengthen Ukraine’s war arsenal


In a metal workshop in the industrial city of Kryvyi Rih in southern Ukraine, a homemade anti-drone system is waiting to be mounted on a military pickup truck.

The contraption — a heavy machine gun welded to steel tubing — is one of several do-it-yourself weapons proving to be a valuable addition to the Ukrainian war effort.

“We have the skills and the equipment, and we have no shortage of ideas,” said Sergei Bondarenko in the workshop near the southern front.

The well-built 39-year-old with a long black beard is a local leader of the Territorial Defense unit of the Ukrainian army.

The device will be accompanied by shock absorbers for more stability and precision, Bondarenko told AFP next to the anti-drone prototype.

The former engineer explained that there had never been anything like it in Ukraine’s arsenal, most of which dated back to Soviet times, when drones were still unknown.

“Trouble happened to us that we didn’t expect,” he said, adding that he’s been fighting Russians since 2014.

For several weeks, Iranian kamikaze drones deployed by Russia have been attacking southern cities like Kryvyi Rih and terrorizing the population.

“The brigade commander told me: we need a solution. There are machine guns. That’s all,” Bondarenko said, smiling.

The heavy machine gun can hit targets at a range of 6,000 meters (19,685 ft), much higher than the altitude at which drones fly.

It could even be a replacement for anti-drone rifles, wave jammers, and other costly air defense systems his unit lacks.

Ukraine is “very fond of handicrafts,” said Bondarenko.

“We can make ‘motanka’ (rag dolls), ‘vyshyvankas’ (embroideries) and machine guns, sing beautiful songs and … kill hundreds of Russians,” he added.

– ‘Everything that helps’ –

In a field outside of town, Yevgeny, codenamed “Badger,” drives a 30-year-old all-terrain Mercedes truck on which a homemade multiple rocket launcher facility is placed.

The four barrels of this weapon come from a Russian “Grad” missile that was destroyed by the Ukrainian army.

A beam serves as a turret, the rockets are Czech or Italian, depending on the delivery.

“We’re content with what we have,” says Badger, a seven-foot-tall behemoth who helped out.

“If we don’t rely on ourselves (first), nobody will help us,” he said.

Since Russia invaded on February 24, many Ukrainian civilians have rallied behind their “defenders”.

Individuals have donated cars and wages, while corporations have donated profits and trucks, which have reappeared in camouflage colors, sometimes militarized.

The “Ukrainian DIY vehicles” didn’t have a “decisive impact” on the conflict, but they did make it possible to somehow “harass the Russians,” which is important, said Pierre Grasser, a Paris-based analyst.

They “excite sympathy and illustrate the mobilization of an entire country,” said Grasser, a Russian defense expert.

Vitaly Brizgalov has now made it his mission to produce all-terrain military buggies for the army.

In his small garage, the atmosphere is reminiscent of action-packed 1980s TV shows like The A-Team and MacGyver, while a dozen workers energetically cut, screw, and grind metal pipes and parts.

The vehicles, whose antique Lada engines are an advantage due to their low weight, cost around ten times less than a brand new civilian buggy at 2,000 euros.

To date, 30 buggies have been produced for combat, with a dozen more in production and ready to be upgraded with various weapons.

A photo on Brizgalov’s phone shows one of his customizable buggies with a Javelin missile system welded on by soldiers.

“I do everything so that we win faster… Even if people have to die,” said this visibly reserved and frail man on the Russian side.

“I’ve gotten a lot tougher since the war started,” he said.

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