Russian snipers and separatist marksmen trained in Russian military camps outmatch their Ukrainian counterparts in the Donbas conflict with better rifles, equipment, and ammunition, an analysis by the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation says.
Given that the conflict in eastern Ukraine has entered a positional phase of trench warfare, the role of snipers and the advantages Russia-backed forces have in this area is more acute, the think tank said on February 25.
In these conditions, snipers are "an effective multiplier on the battlefield, able to precisely strike long-range enemy targets, conduct indispensable reconnaissance of enemy movements and positions, as well as demoralize enemy troops," the analysis said.
When the war broke out in April 2014, Ukraine was using Soviet-era Dragunov (SVD) rifles, while their better-funded and technologically more advanced adversary was using the same rifles but with new barrels, scopes, and high-quality rounds.
"Russian professional snipers at the middle and rear lines" were using bolt-action rifles that "fire three times farther than the SVD rifles."
Lack of funding made it challenging to buy Ukrainian shooters night-vision devices, camouflage, rangefinders, ammunition, thermal sights, and silencers, something the Russia-backed forces are in no shortage of, it said.
Therefore, Jamestown Foundation wrote, Kyiv is still playing catch-up.
Ukraine has started a sniper program with foreign instructors. More effective, lighter-weight rifles were procured from abroad and from the homegrown Zbroyar company.
Now, Ukrainian sniper teams are attached to each battalion, not just special forces.
Still, "poor funding, army bureaucracy, and ammunition shortages preclude Ukrainian snipers from reaching their potential today," the think tank wrote.