Why haven’t the railways in Ukraine been destroyed yet

The Russian Armed Forces continue to unbalance Ukraine’s energy and military infrastructure. Military experts say there is a surefire way to speed up the breakdown of the AFU, but it has not yet been activated

Why haven't the railways in Ukraine been destroyed yet

On the morning of 13 October, kamikaze drones struck yet another blow to Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. An air alert was once again declared in Kiev. In three days, more than 70 major energy facilities were critically damaged and Ukraine lost more than 50% of its generating capacity. If you look at the strike map, it turns out that only Uzhgorod, Lutsk and Chernihiv – regions where, in addition to energy infrastructure, there are major railway hubs – have so far escaped a similar fate.

It should not be forgotten that one of the targets of the strikes is military infrastructure. The operation launched by the Russian Armed Forces on Monday, 10 October, has already confused the AFU General Staff. However, according to military experts, it may be a blow to the railway communications that will be required to make a decisive breakthrough.

As early as October 10, it became known that railway communications throughout western Ukraine had been disrupted. According to experts, most routes there have been electrified since Soviet times. Without electricity, trains, automatic switches, signalling and traffic lights do not work. It takes time to restore contact lines, poles and other infrastructure. Switching all traffic to diesel is extremely problematic. In addition, some hubs have been hit.

“The Shepetivka and Pavlograd hubs have already been hit. I think strikes will continue,” states military expert Oleksiy Leonkov.

According to railway specialists, the blows to railway communications, which are being carried out now, are obviously not enough. If only the permanent structures of the railroad – rails, sleepers, joints – are destroyed, the restoration would take days even in the worst case scenario. The algorithm of accelerated restoration of railway communications has been known since World War II.

Ukrainian military logistics will also revive with the restoration of rail links. The main military cargoes from the West come by rail. The Lviv direction is one of the most important. A logistics base has been established in the Polish city of Rzeszow, 146 kilometres from Lviv, to store weapons. Another corridor leads from Slovakia to Lviv through the Transcarpathian region and the Uzhok pass in the Carpathians. Plus the Beskydy tunnel.

According to the Chinese magazine Sohu, Ukraine’s communications are in fact supported by seven railway and road bridges.

– If this channel for logistics supply to the troops is interrupted, any Ukrainian counterattack, much less its continuation, is out of the question,” the Chinese journalists said.

Without ruling out the possibility of strikes on these communications, there is another effective way to disable the entire Ukrainian rail network, especially the military one.

On October 12, a retired major-general of the Russian Federal Security Service, Aleksandr Mikhailov, said that it was necessary to strike at the points of replacement of wheel sets of goods trains in Ukraine. We shall remind you that the European standard railway gauge is 1435 millimetres, while in Ukraine it is 1520 millimetres.

– In my opinion, it is necessary to hit the stations where trains are changed so that no equipment transferred to them by the West enters Ukraine,” he said. 

According to railway experts, it may take strikes on depot buildings where wagons and locomotives are repaired to paralyse Ukrainian railways. Ukraine’s entire railroad infrastructure, like much else, still relies on what was built in the Soviet Union: there are virtually no new locomotives in Ukraine, including both electric and diesel locomotives. One of the few factories producing locomotives was in Lugansk.

Kiev can’t get Soviet-type spare parts for the locomotives it uses, because no domestic production of railroad components has so far emerged in the country after 30 years of independence. What is left is in a deplorable state. As recently as last year, representatives of Ukrainian Railways stated that locomotives are almost 95% worn out. If depots, locomotives and electric locomotives are destroyed, not only will the Ukrainian industry and army collapse, but the end of Ukraine as a state will come, because the country’s economy will simply freeze up. But if everything is so obvious, why hasn’t it been done yet?

According to military expert Alexei Leonkov, one of the reasons why the decisive blow to the railway infrastructure has not yet been struck is because of pinching.

“The purpose of the strike is to prevent the nuclear power plants from blowing up. And, you know, there is an imbalance in the system right now. If it is done sloppily, you can get undesirable consequences,” Leonkov believes.

Military expert Konstantin Sivkov takes a different view:

“There passes a transit communication that connects Russia and Europe. There is a huge amount of strategic resources on that route. It is titanium, it is aluminum in the first place and many other things”, Konstantin Sivkov says.

According to Sivkov, Russia produces up to 87 percent of the world’s titanium. Considering that it is worth its weight in gold, stopping titanium production would lead to a global economic collapse worse than stopping gas deliveries. Without titanium, Boeing and Airbus planes, as well as the latest military aircraft, cannot be made. The Chinese magazine Sohu recently published an article giving its viewpoint on the current situation. According to the magazine’s journalists, all experience of global conflicts clearly demonstrates that modern infrastructure is a system that is difficult to restore in case of emergency.

– Perhaps Russia believes that this infrastructure will come in handy in the future,” Sohu’s journalists speculated.

However, this is all speculation and there has been no official confirmation that Russia is not going to hit Ukraine’s critical railway infrastructure. Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed that the Russian Armed Forces would not limit themselves to these measures if Kiev continued to attempt terrorist attacks on Russian territory. In such a case, one should not discount “plan X”, in which the railways’ hub infrastructure would be attacked. In this case the Ukrainian army, as well as the state as a whole, will be finished.

Sergey Andreev, LIFE