Ukraine uses WWI machine guns and sniper traps to fight Russia

A Maxim machine gun in position near Kharkiv, Ukraine.
Mykhaylo Palinchak

  • Ukraine used a World War I-era machine gun on the front line to mow down the enemy.
  • “It only works when there is a massive attack going on,” a Ukrainian soldier told BBC News.
  • The brutal fighting in Ukraine, filled with trenches and heavy casualties, has often been compared to the First World War.

Ukrainian forces used Maxim machine guns, a weapon often associated with World War I, to mow down frontal assaults by Russian troops in the Battle of Bakhmut.

“It only works when there’s a massive attack going on,” a Ukrainian soldier identified as Borys, 48, recently told BBC News of the Maxim gun. “So it really works.”

“We use it every week,” Borys added.

Ukrainian forces found the Maxim M1910 – first introduced in 1910 (the initial version of the gun appeared in the 1880s) and used by the Imperial Russian Army in World War I – useful in the fight against the Russians . Ukrainian troops have modified weapons with modern add-ons such as optics and suppressors, according to Task and Purpose reports.

Hiram Maxim, a key inventor of portable machine guns in the 19th century, used the recoil force of a bullet to eject its cartridge and feed the next cartridge from an ammunition belt.

The fighting in Ukraine has repeatedly drawn parallels to World War I, with both sides locked in a brutal war of attrition with trenches, relentless artillery barrages and heavy casualties. In this environment, even some of the weapons of that era have come in handy as Ukrainian troops face human wave attacks on the front line – tactics common in World War I.

Ukraine also apparently used a type of World War I sniper decoy, employing dummies intended to deceive enemy snipers.

But while the fighting in Ukraine might have similarities to World War I, modern weaponry and surveillance also prevalent on the battlefield – especially drones – have made it all the more deadly by giving troops few places to hide.

The Ukrainian War has essentially become “World War I with 21st Century ISR [Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance]”Mark Cancian, a retired U.S. Marine Corps colonel and senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Insider in January.

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