Ukraine uses World War I 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 machine gun on the front lines to mow down the enemy.
  • “It only works if there’s a massive attack going on,” a Ukrainian soldier told BBC News.
  • The relentless fighting in Ukraine, filled with trenches and heavy casualties, is often compared to World War I.

Ukrainian forces have used Maxim machine guns, a weapon often associated with World War I, to crush frontal assaults by Russian forces in the battle for Bakhmut.

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

“We use it every week,” Borys added.

Ukrainian armed forces have found the Maxim M1910 – first introduced in 1910 (the first version of the weapon appeared in the 1880s) and used by the Imperial Russian Army during World War I – useful in fighting the Russians. Ukrainian forces have modified the weapons with modern add-ons such as optics and suppressors, according to reporting from Task and Purpose.

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

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

Ukraine also apparently used a kind of World War I sniper decoy, using dummies intended to fool enemy snipers.

But while the fighting in Ukraine bears similarities to World War I, the modern weapons and surveillance that are also prevalent on the battlefield – drones in particular – have made it all the more deadly by leaving troops with few hiding places.

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

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