Russia has fully unveiled its secretive armored train, packed with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), mortars, infantry fighting vehicles (IFV), and a heavily armed platoon of troops. Called the Yenisei, the train guards its logistics and supply lines connecting passengers and military cargo in the Donbas region.
A rare and unorthodox weapon that Russia operates, it is consistent with the massive railway-centric transportation spanning the large country. The Russian military is heavily railway-dependent but fused its civilian and defense purposes to lend it a distinct “snap mobilization” capability that stunned North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) commanders in 2016.
Russia’s defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, revived two of its armored trains in August 2016, the Baikal and the Amur, at the height of the Donbas War when the Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics (LDPR) fought a separatist war with the Kyiv regime.
These trains participated in an exercise in southern and southwestern Russia. One unidentified armored train appeared in videos in March 2022, arriving in the Ukrainian southern city of Melitopol after departing from a yard in Crimea.
Revealed In New Feature
However, the Russian Ministry of Defense’s (RuMoD) Zvezda channel showed the train up close and from the inside in a recent feature. The video shows the nine-bogey train with tactical gear-wearing troops operating the engine and a command and control center getting video feed from the front of the train.
⭐️El tren blindado Yenisei🇷🇺 opera en la zona de operaciones especiales.
Las imágenes muestran el trabajo de los ferroviarios militares en la RPL y la RPD.
Los combatientes realizan reconocimientos a lo largo de la ruta del tren con ayuda de drones. Sus características… pic.twitter.com/17XhtOsjXP
— #TimeToMoveToRussia 🇷🇺 (@Darwin_f1978) November 15, 2023
It also showed a two-man crew running a ZSU 23-3 twin-barreled anti-aircraft gun, soldiers facing either side of a fully side-open carriage manning medium-machine guns, and launching a simple commercial quadcopter UAV for overhead surveillance and patrol.
The carriage and the guns then live fire, as does a BMP-2 IFV, letting off bursts from its 30-mm 2A32 cannon on a small passing hillock. Mortar troops then disembarked the carriage and set up the weapons several meters from the tracks.
Some troops then walked ahead of the train and checked the integrity of the tracks before finding loose pieces of brackets, nuts, and bolts, indicating sabotage. They get down to repairing the tracks before the train resumes its journey.
It is unclear if the promotional material was shot when the train participated in a routine training exercise or an operational railway patrol.
Russia’s Unique Railway Troops
The flag on the train is that of the Railway Troops of the Russian Federation, the oldest such troops in the world. The formation is tasked with building, operating, maintaining, and guarding railway lines exclusively for the military during wartime.
A report on TASS called the soldiers “railway workers of the Central Military District (CMD).” They were the “first in the zone of a special military operation in Ukraine to launch drones for surveillance without stopping the train. This was reported to the Russian Ministry of Defense.”
“The crew of the registered armored train, Yenisei, of the CMD ensures the safety of passenger and cargo transportation on the railways of the Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics.” To extend its governance and building services in Lugansk and Donetsk after the two voted in a referendum to accede to the Russian Federation in September 2022, Moscow launched a passenger service in the former, connecting it with mainland Russia.
CMD’s military railway workers inspect the areas of train movement in this recently launched passenger service in the Lugansk People’s Republic for wear and sabotage actions groups.
Launched Drones On The Move
“To increase the speed of survey of traffic areas, the military railwaymen of the CMD were the first in the special operation zone to launch drones on the move, without stopping the train at intermediate stations.
“The tactical and technical characteristics of the UAVs, as well as the skill of the copter operators, make it possible to conduct surveillance and technical reconnaissance on the move at a distance from train up to 5 km,” the TASS report added.
The Yenisei is armed with all types of small arms, anti-aircraft and tank machine guns, a group of 82 mm mortars, and a BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicle with an automatic 30 mm 2A32 cannon. “If saboteurs are detected, the BMP-2 crew is ready to lower the armored vehicle from the platform as soon as possible and enter into battle,” it added.
CMD’s railway troops have restored traffic on railway sections of about 300 kilometers in length, cleared unexploded ordnance from over 3,000 km of tracks, and repaired about ten small and medium-sized bridges.