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Logistical Shift: How New Rail Routes Will Transform Russia’s Ukraine Campaign

3GIMBALS’ OMENTM analysis identified new rail construction in Ukraine’s temporarily occupied territories (TOT). When complete, these railroad logistics routes will provide Russian military forces direct and secure logistics options with greater flexibility to transport ammunition, armor, fuel, and personnel. The location of these rail lines will diversify Russian military movement options away from the forward line of troops and vulnerable chokepoints, such as the Kerch Bridge directly connecting Russia to Crimea. Since Russia relies heavily on rail for logistics, this infrastructure project could have significant impacts on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and long-term plans for the region.

Figure 1. Newly identified rail construction within Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine. Source: © 2023, 3GIMBALS.

The rail line construction in Figure 1 identified between Kladovysche and Malovodne in TOT Ukraine offers an alternative rail route approximately 60-80 kilometers farther away from the front lines and heavy conflict zones than existing rail lines. The Taganrog to Dzhankoy rail route provides greater land mobility along the Sea of Azov. This construction activity demonstrates Russia’s confidence in its ability to hold seized territory in southern Ukraine.

Kladovysche to Malovodne Route

The route extending from Kladovysche to Malovodne—given its connection to Taganrog, Rostov-on-Don, Mariupol, and Volnovakha—has the potential to reduce dependence on the Kerch Bridge by providing Russia with another pathway for ammunition, personnel, and equipment. The project will require Russia to lay over 50 kilometers of new track and to complete a rail bridge over the Kalmius River, which likely will take several months to complete. The new rail line will most likely connect two existing lines—near Kladovysche to the northeast, which runs south into Taganrog, and near Malovodne to the southwest, which runs directly south to the Russian military logistics hub of Mariupol. News reports indicate Russia is using civilian contractors and equipment to complete the project, most likely to avoid allocating military troops to the effort.

Figure 2. Photograph showing the construction of a rail bridge over the Kalmius River. Source: © 27 September 2023, Andryushchenko Time, Telegram.

Online sources suggested construction began on a bridge (47.42342, 37.86129) over the Kalmius River near Hranitne and Staromar’ivka in August 2023. This construction, illustrated in Figure 2, was initially detected on commercial imagery in September 2023 and continued through December 2023. The United Kingdom intelligence service indicated that the new rail line is within Ukrainian range for long-range precision strike systems, making it a possible target.

Taganrog to Dzhankoy Route

Figure 3. Newly identified rail construction within Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine will eventually connect Taganrog, Russia, to Dzhankoy, Ukraine. Source: © 2023, 3GIMBALS.

According to news and social media reports, Russia planned to construct a rail line alongside existing roads parallel to the Sea of Azov. The railway line will connect Taganrog, Mariupol, Berdyansk, Melitopol, and Dzhankoy in Crimea. Imagery shows that road construction where the railway will be based began in October 2022 and is expected to be completed in a few years. However, the track-laying phase of construction still needs to be confirmed.

The new rail lines will provide an alternative to the Crimean Tavrida Highway for logistical support, reducing the time required for Russian military movements. Additionally, it would shift routes further away from threats along the front lines, making it easier for Russian operators to shift paths when other routes are disrupted. The construction of these rail lines indicates Moscow’s commitment to holding territory in Ukraine.

To understand Russia’s intent in the region, it is essential to continuously monitor military movements and additional infrastructure construction. 3GIMBALS’ OMEN solution provides valuable insights from persistent infrastructure monitoring, enhancing awareness of tactical and strategic changes in adversaries’ positions.

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