Russia continues to wage an unprovoked hybrid war against Ukraine, deploying not only obsolete Soviet weapons and equipment, but also modern reconnaissance and fire adjustment assets. At the same time, Russian military and political leadership continues to deny or ignore abundant evidence of the presence of Russian troops in the Donbas. Despite prolonged economic sanctions against the Russian Federation, the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the rapid drop in prices for Russian oil, the Kremlin continues to spend millions of dollars of Russian taxpayers on military aggression and persistently tries to destabilize Ukraine. InformNapalm international volunteer community has collected new data on the latest facts of Russian aggression and systemated some of the available information. These data can be used by journalists, politicians and diplomats to step up media and diplomatic pressure on the aggressor, as well as to tighten economic sanctions in order to force the Russian Federation to cease the aggression.
Russia lost another modern reconnaissance drone in Donbas
According to the report of April 5, 2020 on the official Facebook page of the Joined Forces Operation (JFO), the Ukrainian military shot down a new Russian Zastava unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in the area of Svitlodarsk bulge, Donetsk Oblast. The drone system is designed for reconnaissance and fire adjustment. This UAV system has been produced in Russia since 2012 under the license of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and is a licensed copy of the Israeli Bird Eye 400 light portable mini-UAV. Its price is estimated at $2 million. The Zastava UAV production was launched at the Ural Civil Aviation Plant in Yekaterinburg, Russia. The price may look inflated, as with import substitution the production cost of the system should have been much lower. However given the corruption in the Russian military industrial complex, it is difficult to estimate the actual cost of manufacturing and maintaining the system.
The JFO page showed photos of the downed UAV and reported that it it was handed over to the intelligence agencies to study the data from its storage media. It is noted that the downed Zastava UAV is an evidence of the direct participation of the Russian Armed Forces in the war in eastern Ukraine. Russian Armed Forces deploy these UAVs to conduct reconnaissance and adjust fire against the Ukrainian military.
Pictured: the downed Russian Zastava UAV from the JFO page, April 5, 2020
This is not the first instance of the Russian Zastava-type UAV being shot down during the war in the Donbas.
One of the previous cases occurred in 2015 in Luhansk Oblast. Then the Zastava UAV was shot down by Ukrainian border guards who posted the relevant video.
Pictured: Ukrainian border guards record downed Russian Zastava UAV, 2015 / State Border Guard Service of Ukraine
Units of the Russian army operating Zastava UAV systems
There are several photos on the Internet and reports about Zastava UAV put in service by the Russian army.
Pictured: On June 28, 2013, at the Alabino training ground, General Novikov, head of the UAV department of the Russian General Staff, reports to the leadership of the Ministry of Defense about the Zastava UAV (Bird Eye 400) / source: topwar.ru.
Photo: military personnel of the Central Military District are preparing to launch the Zastava UAV at the Chebarkul training ground during a snap exercise / ria.ru.
Currently, it is known that the Zastava UAV is operated by at least 12 units of the Russian Armed Forces; military personnel from 8 of these units have been repeatedly recorded in InformNapalm OSINT investigations as direct participants in the aggression against Ukraine in Donbas.
The data about these units is available through active links in our Russian Aggression database:
- military unit 20924
- military unit 04436
- military unit 90151
- military unit 01162
- military unit 20634 (19th Motorized Rifle Brigade)
- military unit 63354 (136th Motorized Rifle Brigade)
- military unit 41659 (35th Motorized Rifle Brigade)
- military unit 12128 (21st Motorized Rifle Brigade)
- military unit 05812 (18th Machine-Gun and Artillery Division)
- military unit 71289 (83rd Guards Air Assault Brigade)
- military unit 08275 (200th Arctic Motorized Rifle Brigade)
- military unit 02511 (138th Motorized Rifle Brigade)
Apparently, the documentation about the losses of the Zastava UAVs in the Russian Armed Forces should be primarily sought in the listed units, as their personnel was spotted participatin the hostilities in Donbas.
In addition, various modern Russian UAV systems and electronic warfare systems often fall into the focus of our investigations. They constitute direct and irrefutable evidence of the Russian military aggression against Ukraine. As of 2020, there have recorded facts of deployment of at least 8 different types of Russian military UAVs in the east of Ukraine: Granat-1, Granat-2, Granat-4, Forpost, Orlan-10, Eleron-3SV, Takhion and Zastava.
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Translated by Andrii Gryganskyi, edited by Artem Velichko.
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