Russia’s Defense Ministry has already reported 70 “downed” Ukrainian Su-25 fighter jets, which is more than Ukraine had before the war.
Recently, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has once again made an outrageous claim that Russian forces “shot down 24 [Ukrainian] planes in five days.”
The spread of these fakes about “destroyed Ukrainian equipment” can be partially explained by Russian propaganda. However, at least some of the “liquidated” weapon systems are dummy targets, cheap decoys, manufactured both domestically and abroad.
Oleksandr Myronenko, operational director of the Metinvest Group of mining and steel companies, explained in an interview with NV Radio on Oct. 26 how “fake weapons” mislead enemy forces.
NV: This is a very unusual product. At what point did you start designing military equipment decoys? How were you approached about this?
Myronenko: This production has been going on for more than a year. And the military turned to us, as it usually happens. They came with their needs and asked whether it’s possible to make such things, such mock-ups, which would help us mislead the enemy, or make false positions.
Of course, we looked first at the drawings of these mock-ups and then started production. The first copies weren’t very successful, but then, together with the military, we perfected each variant and each copy of a given fake weapon. And currently they look very similar to the originals. And they work very well, according to the feedback we get from the military.
This is a project we’re implementing together with our military. In fact, this is a very important work.
NV: And how is the success of the mock-up determined? Does it have to be very similar to a certain weapon, to a certain type of military equipment? What are the parameters?
Myronenko: The parameters are very simple. It should match the original so that it cannot be distinguished from the original when it’s being observed from a drone or other reconnaissance means.
And the key indicator is when the mock-up is hit, it means it performs its function very well. And the enemy is spending their high-cost ammunition to hit things made of wood and plastic, rather than the real weapons that are hitting them in return.
NV: Can you tell us what kind of equipment it is?
Myronenko: Currently, our main products include Soviet-era D-20 and D-30 howitzers, and U.S. M777 howitzers, as well as several types of radar stations and radio electronic warfare equipment.
We had several requests for the production of HIMARS [multiple launch rocket systems]. We made several copies, and they’re also working now.
NV: That is, if we talk about whether the production of HIMARS was launched in Ukraine, we can say “yes”.
Myronenko: Of course. They even move and change positions. And they look like real cars, performing their function.
NV: Could you tell us how you formed the team? This is a non-typical task, and probably there should be “flexible” people with certain professional characteristics.
Myronenko: As for the team, it was very easy, because we have many specialists who have some experience of working with metallurgical units and other equipment. So, it was easy to do. All our employees are quite patriotic. And any request we receive from the military (this applies not only to mock-ups, but also to other things) is fulfilled with great enthusiasm and great pleasure by our workers.
Therefore, we mostly need the request what the military needs, a drawing how to do it, and the materials from which it must be made. And after that, our people do it with great pleasure. And all this is transferred to our military, for free.
NV: Perhaps, the military, the General Staff shared with you a footage of the Russians destroying some of the decoys?
Myronenko: From what I saw, they [Russians] hit the howitzers, which I already mentioned. And an airstrike was carried out with a high-cost missile, worth about $1.5 million, against a fake radio electronic warfare station, which was located not far from our positions.
We get these videos directly from the guys we gave these mock-ups to. They gratefully send us videos like this after a mock-up has been hit, or even sometimes hand over some souvenirs.
NV: What kind of souvenirs? Part of a missile? Some fragment?
Myronenko: They cannot hand over part of the missile, because it’s being taken away for examination, but some small things that are left and can be handed over, they give us for the museum of our victory.
NV: Apparently, our enemy may have a similar program. Such mock-ups have been used for a long time and in many wars.
Myronenko: To be honest, I don’t know much about the production of such things by the enemy, but I’m sure they also use mock-ups. How successful are they in use? It’s hard for me to judge as I don’t have information [how often] our guys hit dummy targets.
I do hope we’re working more on real weapons and real manpower attacking our positions.
NV: How do you get orders? Is it the General Staff that sends, let’s say, a letter: we need 20 HIMARS, five M777 howitzers for December or February? How does it work?
Myronenko: We work more directly with the units that perform tasks at the front. And we already have great experience in relations with the commanders of each brigade.
They directly turn to us and say: “We need these things for these areas.” And we already, based on our production capabilities, fulfill these orders, and send them to almost all areas, from Kherson Oblast to Bakhmut. Both decoys and much more.
NV: The peculiarity of such production, apparently, is that it should be secret. How to ensure the security of this production so that some Russian, not even an agent, but a sympathizer doesn’t disclose this location for a bottle of vodka?
Myronenko: First, this production is outside our enterprises. Secondly, the people who work in this production are vetted and very patriotic. That’s why we trust them completely, they won’t leak anything.
And thirdly, we don’t tell where we transfer certain mock-ups, to whom we transfer, on which areas they are used. We also don’t tell where and at what locations this production takes place.
We try to observe the regime of maximum secrecy not to give the enemy any information about these production lines.
NV: Metinvest started producing mine rollers. Tell us more about it, please.
Myronenko: As for [Ukrainian oligarch] Rinat Akhmetov’s Steel Front project. It actually started working the day after the Russian invasion. And this project was created to finance and help all our soldiers who defend the country. As part of this project, we transfer products that we produce ourselves within our company. These are both shelters, and interceptors of [Russian] Lancet [loitering] drones, mine rollers, and decoys. There are many other things that we produce and transfer to our military.
And also, we can say there’s a commercial share, i.e., this is what Rinat Akhmetov’s businesses buy and transfer directly to the troops, including drones, cars, rear sights, and many other things that are purchased in large quantities.
[The project] functions depending on the needs that arise at a certain stage of time and at a certain stage of the war. Because at first it was the construction of fortifications, bulletproof vests, then shelters, followed by drones and many other things.
NV: We understand there’s a huge demand for mine rollers. Can we talk about how many are needed? Maybe at least an approximate number. And how many can we produce now?
Myronenko: This product can be damaged because it interacts directly with landmines. The demand for it is very high. It can be measured in tens or hundreds of pieces.
We’re currently producing the KMT-7 roller, which is mounted on tanks. We’ve developed a version of this roller based on Soviet schematics. And it can be mounted on Soviet-style tanks and can break through mine barriers during certain assault actions.
The opportunity we have today is [manufacturing] five rollers per month.
NV: The issue of Mariupol is a very painful topic for all Ukrainians. We remember the brutal siege of the city. Two metallurgical plants, namely the Illich Iron and Steel Works and, of course, the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works, were key enterprises in Mariupol. What’s now happening to these enterprises under Russian occupation?
Myronenko: As far as I know, Azovstal received a lot of damage as a result of the assaults that took place there, from the heroic defense of the guys who stayed at the plant until the last moment. As for the Illich plant, I don’t have exact information about the damage this metallurgical plant received.
We’ll be able to talk about their state only when we return to our city of Mariupol, return to these enterprises, inspect them. And we’ll be able to say in what state they are and how to restore them. But for now, I’d rather not spread rumors or unverified information.
NV: Russian propaganda media reported that one of the clans subordinate to Chechen ruler Ramzan Kadyrov had allegedly received control of both the Illich and Azovstal plants. What does it mean?
Myronenko: In my opinion, this doesn’t mean management, but robbery since any restoration or investment is out of the question. To my mind, they’re not capable of restoring these facilities. Therefore, there is a big risk they could be simply looted.
Read the original article on The New Voice of Ukraine