Russia builds 19-mile long 'tsar train' defence out of old carriages

The Russian army in Donetsk region assembled 'tsar-train' consisting of more than two thousand railcars
The 19-mile long defensive line has been dubbed the 'tsar-train' online - DEEP STATE/TELEGRAM

Russian forces have constructed a nearly 20-mile barricade made of old train carriages in eastern Ukraine, thought to be a defensive fortification designed to slow any Ukrainian counterattack.

Dubbed the “tsar train” online, satellite images show thousands of freight cars placed in a chain between Olenivka and Volnovakha in the Donetsk region, according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

The barricade is believed to comprise 2,100 railcars, mainly rolling stock taken from other occupied territory in Ukraine, according to military Telegram channel Deep State.

Russian forces reportedly began creating the makeshift defensive line in July, soon after Ukraine launched its counter-offensive, according to a Ukrainian source cited by the think tank.

The source “suggested that Russian forces intend to use the train as a defensive line against future Ukrainian assaults”, ISW said, before adding a caveat: “The Russians could have assembled the train for other purposes as well.”

The “tsar train” is a little under four miles from the current front line, according to ISW.

“This is a very specific engineering structure, the effectiveness of which is difficult to assess,” a post on Deep State read.

“The idea is clear – an obstacle to the advancement of the Defence Forces.

“It can be considered a separate line of defence, because it is extremely difficult to damage, move or blow up a 30km mass of metal.

“The movement of equipment through such an obstacle without breaking through the corridor is impossible.”

The railcars used to construct the defensive structure were stolen from Ukrainian territory occupied by Russia, the blogger added.

Ukraine’s advances in the region stalled in the autumn, and its exhausted troops have been pushed back as Moscow makes inroads.

Russia seized the Donetsk town of Marinka in December, which was Kyiv’s first major territorial loss in months, and is now advancing on Avdiivka.

The city was seen as Ukraine’s “eastern fortress” but has been worn down by repeated assaults as its supply lines are severed.

Brig Gen Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, a senior Ukrainian commander, pledged on Sunday to reinforce the city with fresh troops, amid reports of manpower and ammunition shortages.

The decision to dig in, rather than retreat to a more fortified position, raises the prospect of a repeat of the brutal months-long battle over nearby Bakhmut.

Russian defences were responsible for exhausting Ukraine’s push in June to regain territory seized in the early part of the war.

Forces attempted to punch through the “Surovikin Line” – an 81-mile system of trenches, anti-tank ditches and minefields – in southern and eastern Ukraine.

Despite localised successes, the counteroffensive had petered out by November.

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