Comparative Weapon Analysis of Crimea Troops and Eastern Ukraine Militias

In both the Crimea and Eastern Ukraine anti-government troops, without identification on their uniforms, popped up supposedly from nowhere. Nobody had any doubt that the troops in the Crimea where professional Russian soldiers. They were highly disciplined, armed with the latest Russian equipment and well supported. It has been assumed by many that the Eastern Ukraine militias occupying government buildings are also Russian soldiers. Arto Pulkki at Suomen Sotilas, a Finnish Military magazine, makes a compelling case that the Ukraine militias are not Russian troops, but rather an assorted rabble of civilians and retired or reserve soldiers

Here’s a brief summary of the radical materiel differences between the two cases:

  • In Crimea all soldiers used modern small arms (5,45 mm AK74M, 7,62 AKMS, 7,62 mm SVDS, 9,30 mm VSS etc.) as currently issued by Russia, but in East Ukraine you see mainly previous generation AKS74s and AK74s from the 70s and 80s.
  • In Crimea half of the soldiers armed with AKs were also issued with GP-series of 40 mm grenade launchers, as expected, but in East Ukraine you see practically none of these.
  • In Crimea practically all of the troops, line and special, wore modern ballistic protection for head and upper torso, but in East Ukraine you see practically none.
  • In Crimea 25 % of soldiers were armed with excellent 7,62 mm PKP/PKM light machine guns, but in East Ukraine you see no PK-series, only Soviet-era light 5,45 mm RPK74s..
  • In Crimea 25–50 % of soldiers were also armed with RPG-series of lightweight disposable anti-armor weapons, but in East Ukraine you see practically none.

The videos comparisons are also convincing. The East Ukrainian militias appear both incompetent and undisciplined, a danger to themselves and any non-combatants around them. These videos are of East Ukrainian militias:

This is a video of troops in the Crimea (skip to about 2:00, its a long video):

Thanks to Pekka for the tip.

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • DougieR

    The info on the weapons doesn’t convince me, but watching the videos did a little. The E. Ukraine guys were more of mob and it seemed less planned especially the need to fire shots in the air…great way to cause confusion and start shooting for real.

    • J.T.

      Doesn’t seem like they are organized enough to be Russian military, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Russians provided their equipment.

      • Steve (TFB Editor)

        I cannot say one way or the other, but it is plausible it came from old Soviet armories. If I remember correctly lots of Soviet-era Ukrainian equipment found its way into the blackmarket.

        • Manny Fal

          Russians aren’t stupid. They aren’t going to arm these militias with weapons easily identified as coming from russia.

          • Blake

            Especially not when they can easily arm them with weapons coming from somewhere else…

      • dp

        Look at it this way – it would be utterly stupid if Russia as state was organizing the uprising. As for the ethnic Russians in east, yes they are unhappy and they rebel. Ask yourself, what would YOU do in their shoes.
        Regarding equipment, that had been identical till 20years ago and most likely still is, in both countries. Let’s imagine, hypothetically speaking if Texas rebelled, what kind of small arms would you see? I do not mean the National guard which would be promptly summoned to sort it out, just the locals – Texan militia. Since Ukraine is AK land, everyone (with some exceptions…) involved caries AK.
        Having said this, I do not find anything wrong with identifying weapons involved, it’s fun.

  • dp

    I think it was Mr. M.Popenker who set the account right couple of weeks ago; “it’s well regulated militia(s)”. I am not sure he included Academi in it though. God knows….. and who cares after all. Syria’s scene might be even more interesting.

  • A.g.

    For the Crimea, we could see that the phantom russian army with no magazines on theirs like new ak-74 too. Kind of diplomatic message.

    But, now, in east ukrain, if this guys are ukrainian or russian, I’m Péruvian

  • Aleksey Dyukov

    Well, at least this guy seems to know some basics, unlike many other Western military “experts” who would call any rifle “AK-47”. It’s clear that there are two different situations – in Crimea we had a real Russian military intrusion, performed by SSO (most likely “Senezh” SOF centre):

    and some airborne units in standart issued uniforms, while now in Donetsk it’s mostly local Afghan vets, cossacks etc., who use commercial (albeit Russian made) uniforms and weapons seized from local LE garrisons. Not like it will stop Western diplomats and press from condemning (non-existing) Russian involvement.

    • Troy

      What about the Russian nationals sitting in SBU detention as we speak including former high level intelligence operatives. What I find interesting is that the SBU, a known hotbed of pro-russian sympathies and informants, is finally doing their job. I remember going to a SBU hosted meeting in Odessa on military threats to the Ukraine including the possible annexation of Crimea. The SBU expert went on to great lengths to explain how there was not even the possibility of Russia annexing Crimea. It was so obvious that other forces were at work that I wanted to laugh. I remember thinking that the Ukraine was going to have a lot of trouble in the near future. Oh Ukrainian police don’t keep rpg26’s sitting around in their armories, I know I have seen a few even berkyt did not have rocket weapons with the exception of their central swat group in Kiev 2010 or so and they were older RPG models. Please keep an open mind and ask yourself some tough questions, all Russians should look at this analytically, not through the prism of nationalism or just regurgitate party lines. You’ll wake up one day under a brutal dictatorial rule and all of your freedoms will be gone.

      • Aleksey Dyukov

        “What about the Russian nationals sitting in SBU detention as we speak including former high level intelligence operatives.”

        Nothing since there are zero of them. SBU failed to provide any evidence that won’t fall into “laughable fakes” category (or may be I missed some). I don’t believe FSB either when they claim that they’ve detained around 20 Ukrainians planning to perpetrate acts of terrorism in Russia. Both sides are engaged in information warfare here.

        “Oh Ukrainian police don’t keep rpg26’s sitting around in their armories”

        I don’t know, may be local “Sokil” unit had them, may be they smuggled them from Crimea.

        “Please keep an open mind and ask yourself some tough questions, all Russians should look at this analytically”

        That’s exactly what I’m trying to do. And my point is: armed people in Donetsk don’t belong to Russian MoD or any other service. May be they are a members of Crimean militia, hell, may be there are even some Russian citizens among them (as in “people from the south of Russia who purposely came to Ukraine for participating in separatist movement” not just guys with dual citizenship), but they are not some “Russian FSB/KGB/GRU/Chechen mujaheddin spetsnaz”. Apparently, Mr. Pulkki have come to the same conclusion.

        • Troy

          I think that you will see 100% proof of Russian involvement come out very soon. Trust me on that . Also look to my former Army Intel, FSB, comment. they are not active duty, hence it is accurate to say that they are not Russian soldiers. They do however, have Russian employers. Russia is using Russian blackwater types to, “pull the strings”, in eastern Ukraine to give plausible deniability. Many of the guns being issued were funneled out of Crimea so in the event they are captured Russia can say there not our guns. Ask yourself this, why wouldn’t Russia get involved? They have been running anti nato groups, ect. there for at least 5 or 6 years. Its common knowledge in America, for people who care about eastern Europe and geopolitic.

    • Zugunder

      What is that sight on PKP at 0:28 in video?

      • Aleksey Dyukov

        Looks like 1PN93-3.

    • n0truscotsman

      Probably because western diplomats and the press (who are lackeys for the various industrial complexes that truly represent western interests) are trying to fan the flames for western intervention…

      before you pile on with the conspiracy theorist accusations, keep in mind that I will throw down evidence of such US activities ranging from the middle east to south america and the naysayer will then have to tell me how tangy that crow tastes.

      Excellent post Aleksey.

      The commentary from western “military experts” reminds me of the steaming morass of idiocy coming from “Sovietologist” pseudo-intellectuals during the cold war.

  • Troy

    There are some good pictures from that one city of some high speed looking gear including rpg26 and NVD’s. The Ukrainian SBU has announced the ID’s of at least 10 Russian nationals in detention with documented histories with Russian Military intelligence, fsb, and special forces (most recently retired ie not active duty).While they might not be active duty regular troops, I have no doubt many of the armed ones are not Ukrainian nationals either. This is to give a veil of legitimacy to claims that no Russian troops are in the Ukraine. They are the equivalent of Blackwater types running local assets mainly from local miner and steel industry unions and Yanukovich ground game enforcers.

    • Fred

      Yeah I think it’s pretty obvious who’s stirring the pot here. Good analysis of the weapons, but it’s safe to assume the Kremlin is pulling the strings.

  • Ken

    Putin must have said “screw plausible deniability.”

    • ThomasD

      Putin had to have Crimea, quickly, and cleanly. So he used pros.

      He also wants eastern Ukraine, but knows it is going to require some ugliness to ‘justify’ full Russian intervention. So, rather than waste/risk quality troops he sends in the third stringers.

      Like Longshanks said in Braveheart “arrows are expensive, send in the Irish.”

  • Mr Mxyzptlk

    Is it just me, or are the rifles used in the second video (the one with the shooting into the air) AK-74Ms? I have only seen the Ukrainian military and police with original AK-74s and AKS-74s, and this along with the more standardised uniforms and equipment makes me pretty suspicious. They are not behaving like trained troops though, so my guess would be that they are just militia, but they are being provided with weapons and equipment by…someone else.

    • vasya

      it’s not an AK-74M. It’s a late-production plastic AK74.

      • Lance

        CIS states use wood stocked AK-74s still; but many larger states and Russia use polymer stocks on most pre and post M model AK-74s.

  • no ww 3

    judging by the balaclavas and masks I’m guessing rouge skiers. non medalist a from Sochi?

  • Lance

    not surprised to see older AK-74s in Ukraine unlike Crimea most AKs taken in eastern Ukraine are from Ukrainian Army armories taken by pro-Russian forces. Ukraine uses older AK-74s as Russia upgraded after the USSR fall to the AK-74M. Though some wood stocked AKs are still in use in Russia and the CIS most use cheaper plastic stocks now. Anyway your in the heart of former USSR I don’t expect to see many none Soviet weapons in use.

  • Zugunder

    I’m agree with author’s point of view, but despite that, i find this article more about politics than firearms, hence inappropriate for this site. Sorry.

  • LMDefense
  • Jazzman

    In Europe we know that all this mess in Ukraine was triggered by USraëli snipers shooting on both sides during the Maïden events. Thanks for all.

  • Guest

    TBF a correction:
    Most if not all LMGs seen in Crimea were Pecheneg, not PKM.

  • Seth Hill

    Or given that the Eastern Ukrainian militias showed up after the Crimean incident and the hub bub over if they were Russian, someone in Russia realized they screwed up and sent Russian troops in with old equipment, no armor, etc to sell the image as being militias and not real troops?

  • demian

    How about to make an analysis of weapons of Greystone mercenaries in Ukraine (Director of CIA flew to Ukraine recently cause 20 of them got lost)?

    • bsnighteye

      I clearly doubt that someone can do that, but who knows?

  • EthanP

    Some of them no doubt are local militia/thugs. But you will notice the way many of them move. How they carry their weapons. Obviously SPEZNATZ.

  • Aaron

    Why do people seem to always assume it’s all one way or the other – as in all the troops are Russian soldiers or they are all local militias?

    We know there were BOTH Russian troops and local militias in Crimea and based on what I’ve seen of the situation in eastern Ukraine so far, I think the situation is similar. However I’m guessing that what the Russian government is doing is having professional troops “disguised” to operate among militia, aid them when necessary and hold key points, while the militia and locals do the general uprising. Since mainland Ukraine is a more touchy issue than even Crimea, I think Putin is making sure to mask his involvement better (although it’s still apparent) and make it more difficult for the west to decide which and how many are the professional troops.

    These groups sprung up and armed and took control of government buildings very quickly in a nubmer of cities simultaneously. Given Putin’s comments over the past few weeks, and years, about Russian empire and expansions etc, and what we know about Crimea now, we would be childishly naive to think they weren’t involved. Every powerful country has their nose everywhere that matters to them, including us. Russia is no different, and Ukraine is *very* important to them.