Friendly Fire: The “Success” Story of Ukraine’s New “Decommunised” Mortar

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


A mortar exploded during an exercise at the military training ground in the Rovno region. Four persons were killed, and several more were wounded.

It turned out that the Ukrainian “Molot” mortar, which was created after the beginning of the ATO, became the reason for accident.

The fact that there are clearly some problems with this mortar is confirmed by the ban on its use after the tragedy in the Rovno region. This was stated by Petro Poroshenko.

“Strana” understood what happened and how its connected to the “Molot”.

What happened

On July 6th, 2018 at around 05.30 on the territory of the Rovno combined training ground one of the military units was carrying out the task of destroying a hypothetical enemy by firing a mortar battery from a closed firing position, during which a shell exploded in the barrel of the mortar.

This was reported by the press service of the military prosecutor’s office of the Western region of Ukraine.

As a result of the accident two soldiers died on the spot, and two more were sent to hospital. Two of the dead are residents of Uzhgorod, one of who was from Perechyn. Four more persons received wounds. It was initially reported that three persons had died.

A group of prosecutors headed by the military prosecutor of the Rovno garrison began to work at the scene. Criminal proceedings were launched.

One of the probable causes of the tragedy is a violation of the security measures during exercises, but other narratives are also being considered.

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Later the names of the dead became known:

  • Captain Valery Timofeyevich Tikhonovsky, commander of the mortar battery of military unit A1778, 1978 date of birth ;

  • Soldier Dmitry Olegovich Vlasov, senior mortar shooter of the first mortar platoon of the mortar battery of military unit A1778, 1996 date of birth;

  • Soldier Yury Yuryevich Pishkar, part of the service staff of the first mortar platoon of the mortar battery of military unit A1778, 1975 date of birth.

What is known about the “Molot” mortar

The cause of the accident was the “Molot” mortar of Ukrainian production. The President Petro Poroshenko banned the use of this mortar whilst the investigation is ongoing.

The Ministry of Defence decided to develop the Ukrainian 120-mm mortar in May, 2015. The Soviet 2B11 mortar was used as a basis. After only a few months, in August of the same year, the first prototype version of the weapon was made.

It was reported that “Molot” prototype is 45kg lighter than the Soviet one, while the barrel is capable of sustaining one and a half times more shots. At the same time the results of the tests that were carried out in October, 2015 showed that the mortar is a little heavier than its “ancestor”.

“Molot” was presented for the first time within the framework of the 12th International specialised “2015 Weapons and Security” exhibition.

The first batch of mortars was shipped for the Ukrainian army on March 3rd, 2016. It was reported that the Ukrainian-made weapons will replace their Soviet analogs that had served the Ukrainian army for more than 50 years.

As of the summer of 2016 the cost of one mortar totals 483,000 hryvnia.

Explosions and lift-offs. Incidents with “Molot”

In the middle of July, 2016 information appeared in the media about the unsatisfactory quality of the materials used. In the same month mortarmen made complaints about the double loading mechanism being made from tempered steel, which can lead to an explosion during firing and can wound personnel.

On July 25, 2016 “Molot” exploded during firing practice at the Shyroky Lan training ground in the Nikolaev region. As a result of the explosion a serviceman from the 57th brigade of the 34th separate-mechanised infantry battalion was killed, and 10 more received wounds. Later one of wounded persons died in a hospital in Odessa. According to the findings of the examination, the explosion happened not because of a faulty design of the mortar. It was the munition inside the mortar that was faulty.

In the night of November 2nd, 2016 two militants from Aidar were killed because a shell exploded in the barrel of “Molot”. The chief engineer of the Mayak plant later declared that it happened because of double loading.

On March 30th, 2017 three militants were killed by a mortar explosion in Avdeevka.

In 2017 a video was published showing how “Molot” nearly flew away. The reason for this, according to some information, was a gross violation while using the mortar – the support plate wasn’t fixed in place.

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