Sniper duels on the Russia-Ukraine battlefield just seem to have leveled up. Russia claimed its marksmen eliminated an entire battalion this year. A Russian sniper made his kill after waiting for four days, and the Ukrainian army announced the longest sniper kill at more than 3 kilometers.
The Russian Ministry of Defense (RuMoD) released videos of its snipers in action in its publicity material, showing either lone snipers or sniper-spotter pairs taking out long-distance targets. Footage from the digitized rifle scopes and sighting systems have recorded the kills.
The Russia-Ukraine war has all three characteristics that naturally ensure many sniping exchanges. It is essentially a land war that has continued for a prolonged time, involves control of territory as a significant strategic objective, and has also seen classic attritional trench and artillery warfare.
Meanwhile, Russia’s defense industry introduced a new bolt-action sniper rifle earlier this month. This suggests it was responding to urgent needs and that the sniping duels are even more intense than reported in Ukrainian and Russian media.
Sniper Waited Four Days For Target Acquisition
According to a report on RIA Novosti, a Russian volunteer sniper with the call sign “Skull” spent four days in an ambush and finally “eliminated the enemy in one shot.” A 22-second clip on RIA Novosti showed the video, with a green identification reticle centering on a helmet.
The gun fires and the bullet can be seen briefly traveling (the air bends around the object) from the top left-hand side of the screen. The soldier’s head instantly disappears – or goes down. The audio also captures the bolt being cocked to the chamber for the next round. This suggests that the video is not from the rifle scope but the spotter’s scope.
The sniper fires at another target, this time from a lying down position. An infrared footage shows the bullet striking an object, presumably a head, concealed behind twigs and branches. “For four light days, the Skull waited patiently for the Ukrainian Armed Forces fighter to show his head from behind the branches. It took the Russian fighter literally a few seconds to catch the target and shoot,” the RIA Novosti report added.
The sniper-spotter pair was popularized in the cult classic war drama ‘Jarhead,’ where the two protagonists, scout snipers from the US Marine Corps (USMC), impatiently await actual action after grueling training during the First Gulf War.
Ukrainian Sniper Makes World’s Longest Shot
Between November 19 and 24, there was a media blitz by both Russia and Ukraine to celebrate feats by their respective snipers. On November 19, the RuMoD released a graphic video of sniper-spotter pairs from its Airborne Troops in Artyomovsk in far eastern Ukraine in Donetsk.
The video showed one such inside a room of a house, where the sniper rested the tripod-mounted bolt-action gun on a table before firing a round. The video cuts to feed from the spotter’s scope, and the thermal mode footage shows a bullet swiftly darting through the air and hitting the head that blows open with chunks splattering about.
— EurAsian Times (@THEEURASIATIMES) November 30, 2023
— EurAsian Times (@THEEURASIATIMES) November 30, 2023
The RuMoD described this as “Ukrainian servicemen (being eliminated while) trying to approach Russian positions near Artyomovsk both day and nighttime.” “The fighters conduct aimed fire from a distance of more than 1,000 meters, changing position after each shot,” it added.
Following this update, Ukraine’s primary security agency, the SBU, reported their sniper setting a “world record” by killing his Russian target at nearly 3.8 kilometers. It added that the previous record was 3,540 meters.
A video released on Telegram showed two Russian soldiers standing in a fortified position when a bullet fired from the ‘Volodar Obriyu (Lord of the Horizon)’ rifle took around 11 seconds to travel the distance and hit one of them. “SBU snipers are changing the rules of world sniping, demonstrating the ability to work effectively at fantastic distances,” the SBU was quoted as saying.
Russians Snipe An Entire Battalion In Eight Months
On November 24, RuMoD released a video of a Russian soldier with a bullpup-type bolt-action sniper generally aiming and a UAV flying overhead. He moves with his teammate, who is armed with an assault rifle, into tall grass, and the duo begins independently surveilling for targets.
Multiple angles, from the scout’s body camera and a third camera, capture him releasing a round, with the scout presumably giving him a verbal confirmation of the hit. A thermal image view shows two persons moving at a distance, with one appearing to get hit. The pair then quickly changes positions.
Another sniper-spotter pair is seen inside a damaged building (it is not clear if they are the previous ones), firing in a standing position from a smashed-out wall, and their guns and spotter scopes rested on tripods. Three rounds are fired from different positions and parts of the building, but the spotter’s footage doesn’t definitively show a soldier getting hit.
The RuMoD said these snipers were providing fire support to a Pacific Fleet Marines Brigade near Ugledar but had eliminated “almost an entire enemy battalion” since February. A battalion has roughly 600 to 800 soldiers.
The sniper rifle used here is different from the one seen in the December 19 video. It is possibly a Lobaev Arms LAR-10. But the make cannot be definitively identified and remains unclear. Earlier this month, RIA Novosti also reported Russian snipers receiving a new batch of the latest high-precision BespokeGun Raptor Tactical bolt action sniper that fires a .338 Lapua Magnum round. This is for use in the “northwestern military zone.”
Sniping, World War Two & Iconic ‘Enemy At The Gates’
In January this year, EurAsian Times featured a long-running sniper duel between Russian sharpshooters and a dreaded Ukrainian marksman, whom they finally eliminated. Oleg Nebuvaylo, an “enemy sniper instructor of the highest class, was eliminated during the counter-sniper struggle.”
The facts surrounding both subjects in the current and January reports — of Russian snipers patiently waiting for the kill for days — are instantly reminiscent of the 2001 war drama ‘Enemy at the Gates.
That movie shares much of the historical, political, and tactical narrative with the current war. It is based on the true story of a famous Russian World War Two sniper, Vassily Zaitsev, who kills his evenly matched German counterpart. A running theme throughout the movie is about the lonesome sniper’s endless wait and watching through the riflescopes.
Zaitsev’s actions during the battle of Stalingrad made him an icon representing the classic sniper in popular culture and general military folklore. In Ukraine, too, Russia has accused the presence of neo-Nazis since the 2014 Euromaidan Protests and now claims to be fighting them in the current war. Its subsequent narrative has likened its “Special Military Operation” to the Great Patriotic War, as it officially calls World War Two.