Ukrainian steelmakers who scared off Russian forces with decoy weapons made of trash are now supplying troops with hundreds of fake weapons

Ukrainian troops
Ukrainian service members near Bakhmut on March 24, 2023.Aris Messinis/Getty Images
  • Steelworkers in Ukraine are outsmarting Russian troops with realistic-looking decoy weapons.

  • The decoys mimic advanced systems like howitzers and mortar launchers.

  • After fooling Russian radar, new decoy weapons are being given directly to Ukrainian troops.

Steelworkers in Ukraine are outsmarting Russian troops with realistic-looking decoy weapons, using scrap wood, metal, and used tires to mimic advanced defense systems such as howitzers, radar systems, and mortar launchers.

The workers at Metinvest, Ukraine's largest steel plant, have produced more than 250 decoy weapons for Ukrainian troops, tricking Russian forces into using up valuable ammunition on nothing more than trash, the Financial Times reported.

The steelworkers began their operation last February when Russian troops approached their plant in central-eastern Ukraine, per the FT.

With no actual weapons to defend themselves, they cobbled together fakes with found materials they had on hand and prepared to fool the advancing troops.

"We used boxes, plastic, and any materials available here — even items discarded in the trash — that we could find to make decoy weapons," the enterprise chief of a Metinvest facility told FT. "We were outgunned but we made it look like our army was big and strong and that we were ready to fight."

It worked: "We scared them off," he said.

Now, Ukraine has expanded decoys to include radar reflectors made of old Russian oil barrels. The fakes cost about 1,000 Euros to create — a fraction of the $1.1 million missiles used by Russian troops to destroy them.

"Our success is measured by the decoys' destruction," the enterprise chief told FT. "When they are destroyed it means we have saved our guns and our guys' lives — and the enemy has wasted more of its valuable weapons.

He added: "When they sit for too long we know we need to change the design."

Militaries have long used decoy weapons to outmaneuver their opponents, such as inflatable tanks in WWII and parachuting dummies meant to simulate an airborne invasion leading up to D-Day.

Ukrainian troops have increasingly relied on cunning ruses and opportunistic attacks to fend off Russian forces, Insider previously reported, such as creating a wooden version of a tank made from empty 155mm shell boxes.

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