Russia Building 20-Mile-Long ‘Tsar Train’ Barrier in Eastern Ukraine: ISW

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Russian forces in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region are using thousands of freight carriages as a defensive “train” against Ukrainian troops close to the front line, according to a new report.

The continuous structure of goods wagons stretches between the Russian-controlled Donetsk towns of Olenivka and Volnovakha. It is close to the front lines in eastern Ukraine, according to Ukrainian open-source intelligence tracker DeepState.

Covering around 30 kilometers, or just under 19 miles, the structure contains around 2,100 freight carriages, the outlet said, labeling it the “tsar train.”

“This is a very specific engineering structure, the effectiveness of which is difficult to assess,” DeepState wrote. “The idea is clear—an obstacle to the advancement of the [Ukrainian] Defense Forces.”

It is possible the tsar train was built to act as a “defensive line against future Ukrainian assaults,” the Institute for the Study of War, the U.S.-based think tank, said on Sunday. However, it may also have been designed for as-yet unknown reasons, the ISW added.

A freight train crosses champagne vineyards outside Sevastopol, Crimea, on October 30, 2014. Russian forces in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region are using thousands of freight carriages as a defensive “train” against Ukrainian troops close to…


SERGEI GAPON/AFP via Getty Images

Satellite imagery from May 2023 and February 2024 shows the long string of train carriages linking the two towns, the ISW added. Russia began piecing together the tsar train in July 2023, the Deep State account said.

“It can be considered as a separate line of defense, because it is extremely difficult to damage, move or blow up a 30-kilometer-long [19-mile] mass of metal, and the movement of equipment through such an obstacle without breaking through the corridor is impossible,” Deep State said.

Olenivka and Volnovakha lie just a few miles east of the front lines snaking through Ukraine’s Donetsk region, where some of the heaviest fighting is taking place.

Olenivka is east of Novomykhailivka, a town just south of Marinka, which Russian fighters captured in late December 2023. Volnovakha is southeast of Vuhledar, the embattled southern Donetsk town where Ukrainian and Russian forces fought one of the most bloody battles of the nearly two-year-old war in early 2023.

The railway line connecting Olenivka and Volnovakha is less than four miles from the front line at its closest point, the ISW think tank said. This is an “an area of the front that was relatively inactive when Russian forces reportedly began construction,” the think tank added.

Newyork Verified could not independently verify this, and has reached out to the Russian Defense Ministry for comment.

After Moscow seized control of Marinka, Serhiy Hrabsky, a military analyst and former Ukrainian army colonel, told Newyork Verified that Ukraine’s grasp on Novomykhailivka would significantly deteriorate. Russian troops desperately tried to capture Vuhledar, Hrabsky said, but Ukraine will need to maintain control of the settlement because of its strategic value.

On Monday, Ukraine’s military said Russia had launched 32 attacks close to Novomykhailivka and the nearby settlements of Krasnohorivka and Pobjeda. Russia’s Defense Ministry reported clashes around Novomykhailivka on Sunday.