Espreso. Global

"People in Crimea give us important information". Interview with AFU General Marchenko

1 February, 2024 Thursday

Major General of the Ukrainian Armed Forces Dmytro Marchenko has told about the situation in the southern sector, his detachment, and Ukrainian army support in the occupied territories

Dmytro Marchenko is the head of the Main Directorate for Development and Support of Logistics of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, who is in charge of the unmanned aerial vehicle detachment. At the beginning of the full-scale invasion, he was in charge of the defense of Mykolaiv and was a guest on the Commentary program on the Espreso YouTube channel. Below is the text version of the interview.

From this text, you will learn:

  • Who is leading the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)
  • Whether first-person-view (FPV) drones can compensate for the lack of artillery supplies
  • What is the situation in the southern direction
  • Do people in the temporarily occupied Crimea support the Ukrainian army?
  • What are the consequences of Ukraine partners' hesitation for the frontline?
  • UAVs are currently being used at the highest level by both Ukraine's side and tRussia. Who is leading in terms of the number and effectiveness of their use?

UAVs are currently being used at the highest level by both Ukraine's side and Russia. Who is the leader in terms of number and efficiency of use?

This information is not public, so I can only give you a partial answer. We have a very well-established system for building drones. Many of them fly deep into the Russian Federation. We are far superior to the Russian army in terms of efficiency of use. 

Any drones consist of Chinese-made spare parts. As far as I know about FPV drones, the Russians have ordered 50,000 components from the Chinese, and this is only until March.

The rest of the information is not for public disclosure.

Ukrainians have only recently heard about FPV technology, but there are already calls to learn how to assemble and equip drones. It is clear that it is geographically more difficult for us to get spare parts for these devices than for the Russian Federation. Can we talk about any development of Ukraine's own spare parts production? 

As far as I know, there are several companies that develop and provide us with these parts. I believe that for the masses, we need a government program that would support these manufacturers so that we can partially reduce our dependence on spare parts from China.

Why FPV? There is an opinion that it is with drones that we are trying to compensate for the lack of ammunition for artillery.

It is impossible to replace artillery with drones completely, because artillery has completely different tasks, such as creating barrage fire or stopping the enemy's advance. In such cases, FPV drones will not cope.

However, they do partially cover the shortage of ammunition and are effective at performing tasks at a short distance from the enemy. The advantage of drones over artillery is that the operator can see where they are hitting.

Just last year, Ukrainians were actively raising funds for reconnaissance drones. Now the need for this type of UAV has decreased. What is the reason for this?

As far as I know, the need has not decreased. It's just that this type of UAV is partially financed by the state (they have started purchasing them at the state level), and they are longer in use, while FPV drones are disposable. An FPV drone flies only in one direction, so it needs to be purchased on a much larger scale.  

The idea that the need has diminished or disappeared is wrong.

The need for countermeasures to UAV technology is now being actively emphasized. Can we say that this need is being met quickly?

There are approximately 18 companies that independently produce electronic countermeasures systems. As for component parts, yes, we are still dependent on foreign manufacturers.

Not only Russia is learning, but we are also learning. Thanks to the brilliant work of our specialists, we have significantly reduced the use of Orlan UAVs in the south of Ukraine. They no longer fly as often as they used to. This is thanks to the fact that we have learned something.

Does this relate only to the Orlans, or do you expect a similar trend with other drones? In October last year, the Russians boasted of hitting one of our airfields in the Dnipro region. Fortunately, analysts confirmed that they most likely attacked some fake target. However, the very precedent of their flying tens of kilometers into Ukraine's rear worried many people.

It was not a drone, but a missile, but the Russians often use Shahed and Lancet drones that, unfortunately, hit targets. But we have already found a way to deal with them, which is currently being tested by our specialists (the first samples have already been tested), so I think our groups will soon be able to protect human resources from such attacks.

Russia continues its attacks in the southern direction, which you and your team are working to secure. What are the main trends in the south today that you can highlight?

This is mostly a positional war. Our southern command is very successful in planning operations to deter the Russian troops, as they use their units to drive us from the left bank of the Dnipro. However, our soldiers manage to repel these attacks. By the way, in Krynky, where they tried to enter in three groups, it was FPV drones that helped repel the attack.

It is clear that Ukraine’s defenders on the left bank are often supplied with everything they need using FPV technologies. Is the enemy trying to counteract in this direction along the Dnipro River?

Yes, of course. The Russians constantly keep the water under fire control, because it is the main road to the left bank. However, our guys cope with it. Commanders have repeatedly asked our units to help them transfer both supplies and ammunition to the other side.

The issue of mobilization is being actively discussed. Has our military hierarchy paid enough attention to the positions that will be responsible for the use of UAV technology?

Not everyone who has expressed a desire to become a UAV operator will become one. We've had groups come to us to train operators, and out of 10 people, only 1-2 remain. Not everyone can do it. There are many specialties. The understanding of where a person will be useful comes in the process of serving.

I want to add that one should not be afraid to be drafted. The war will affect everyone. No one can hide from it at home, in the basement or abroad. You need to go and help your country!

People under occupation who can help us are an extremely valuable resource. How active are they in the southern direction? How much do people under occupation work with us side by side for a common goal? 

Kherson's residents proved not only to Ukraine, but to the whole world that they do not want to be with Russia. It is they who provide valuable information that helps us to hit the enemy in a targeted and timely manner.

Does the position of people vary depending on the time spent in occupation and the distance to the contact line, for example, residents of the temporarily occupied Crimea?

And there are people in Crimea who do not want the Russian world to be there. It is clear that these are those who are forced to stay there to look after their parents or homes. They also help by passing on important information to us.

For quite some time now, telegram fake channel’s attached messages have been addressing Crimeans that the war is approaching their doors, and they can help end it sooner. Do they respond to these appeals?

Yes, they do. This channel has a very well-developed network of guerrilla movement. There are trusted people who have been helping us since the first days of the war and are still helping us. When they provide information, you can believe it.

Ukraine is now in a situation where we are waiting for certain decisions from our partners, so it is quite difficult for us to talk about continuing an effective fight or planning military operations. How do you, as a Ukrainian soldier with many years of experience, look at what is happening in Ukraine's relations with the world? Has it become more difficult, as of the end of January 2024, in the context of weapons and ammunition?

It became more difficult when the assistance of partners weakened. Any military operation depends on several factors, such as the availability of ammunition, aircraft, air defense systems and electronic warfare. We are doing our best, but the lack of weapons complicates not only the planning of operations, but also the situation on the contact line itself.

A technological breakthrough that could change the course of the war (as mentioned by Valerii Zaluzhnyi), what do you think it will look like?

A technological breakthrough will be possible with the availability of long-range (>300 km) precision weapons, aircraft and air defense and electronic warfare systems.

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