- Sputnik International, 1920, 25.02.2022
Russia's Special Operation in Ukraine
On February 24, 2022 Russia launched a special military operation in Ukraine, aiming to liberate the Donbass region where the people's republics of Donetsk and Lugansk had been living under regular attacks from Kiev's forces.

British SAS Soldiers Posing as Arms Dealers Scour World for Shells for Ukraine

© Sputnik / Pavel LvovA 2S1 Gvozdika self-propelled artillery howitzer at a firing range
A 2S1 Gvozdika self-propelled artillery howitzer at a firing range - Sputnik International, 1920, 08.03.2023
Ukraine has run through its stockpiles of arms and ammunition — inherited from the Soviet Union in 1991 — along with weapons supplied by its NATO backers since Russia launched its military operation to defend the Donbass republics.
A team of SAS commandoes are reportedly scouring the world for stocks of Russian-calibre artillery shells to refill Ukraine's depleted arsenals.
A British daily newspaper reported that a dozen special forces troopers have been travelling across Africa, the Middle East and Asia along with intelligence agents and Foreign Office officials.
The group, posing as arms dealers, carry "substantial amounts of cash" to buy up stocks of 122mm-calibre shells — fired by many of the artillery pieces Ukraine inherited from the Soviet Union — on the spot.
"Our people have sources all over the world who will know if there is any ammo available and who to contact to strike a deal," one military source said. "It is not always easy — it has been a scramble with many dead ends — but there have also been successes."
The team have already journeyed to Angola, Egypt, Jordan, Kazakhstan, and Vietnam. But this week sources claimed a deal was struck on a stockpile in an unnamed European country.
Arms factories in both Bulgaria and Romania still produce Soviet-era arms and ammunition.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky recently begged his Western backers for more artillery, on top of his demands for fighter jets. "Artillery is the number one thing that we need. Both systems and ammunition — shells in large amounts," he said.
US Army General Christopher Cavoli, the NATO supreme allied commander in Europe, has said the Ukrainian army fires around 100,000 shells per month compared to 600,000 from the Russian side — as Russian forces encircle the key city of Artemovsk (Bakhmut).
The reputed mission follows a failed attempt in the summer of 2022 to buy tens of thousands of rounds of 122mm ammunition from Pakistan, which has remained neutral in the conflict between Ukraine — with its NATO allies — and Russia.
The report claimed 40,000 shells were flown by RAF transport planes from Pakistan's Nur Khan Air Base to Romania's Cluj International Airport for delivery to a local arms dealer acting as a middleman.
However, none of those rounds made it to Ukraine. Unconfirmed rumours of quality control issues were superseded by Islamabad's denial last month that it had allowed any ammunition to be transferred to the conflict zone.
"The reporting about supply of defence items by Pakistan to Ukraine is not accurate," Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said on February 16.
"Pakistan maintains a policy of non-interference in military conflicts. Pakistan only exports defence stores to other states based on strong End Use and none re-transfer assurances," Baloch stressed. "And this is the case of Pakistan’s position in the Ukraine-Russia conflict."
A Ukrainian artilleryman throws an empty 155MM shell tube as Ukrainian soldiers fire a M777 howitzer towards Russian positions on the frontline of eastern Ukraine, on November 23, 2022. - Sputnik International, 1920, 16.02.2023
US Orders Nearly $1Bln in Heavy Artillery Ammunition as Ukraine Burns Through Aid
The Russian imperial army adopted the 122mm (4.8-inch) artillery calibre before the First World War. It remained in service after the 1917 revolution and throughout the Soviet era with the Red Army, and is still used by the modern Russian army and those of other former Soviet republics and Warsaw Treaty member states.
Before Russia launched its military operation, the Ukrainian army reportedly possessed around 440 122mm-calibre D-30 towed howitzers and 600 2S1 'Gvozdika' (carnation), the armored self-propelled versions of the same gun — although most were in long-term storage at the time.
Daily reports by the Russian Ministry of Defence have reported the destruction at least 146 D-30s and 99 Gvozdikas since the start of the demilitarization operation.
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