Massive “Pion” Crater Near Luhansk
2S7 “Pion” used near Krymske, allegedly from separatist-held territory
The press center of the Ukrainian Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) recently released photographs of a crater caused on May 4 by a 203mm 2S7 Pion (NATO reporting name M-1975) artillery system near the highly active Krymske-Sokilyky area in Luhansk Oblast.
The ATO reported that the shot came from non-government-controlled Stakhanov, about fifty kilometers west of Luhansk. The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) has previously observed 2S7 Pions on three occasions (August 2016, September 2016, February 2017) in government-controlled areas.
Another impact was reported by a Ukrainian Armed Forces volunteer on May 8, allegedly by a 203mm shell fired from a 2S7 Pion.
The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine did not examine these craters, thus leaving the accounts from the Ukrainian Armed Forces/ATO Press Center as the only sources regarding the incident.
2S7 Pions have been rarely seen in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, but these self-propelled long-range artillery are known to have been on both sides of the line of contact since 2014. Dozens of these artillery systems are used by the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and there have been a handful of sightings of them in the armaments of Russia-backed separatist forces.
In the video below, we can see the 2S7 “Pion” in action during 2016 military exercises from the Ukrainian Armed Forces:
In the past few months, the area around Krymske has seen increased violence with more frequent use of indiscriminate large-calibre Minsk proscribed weapons, notably 152mm artillery, 122mm artillery, and MLRS Grad artillery, in addition to the more commonly seen 80mm and 120mm mortars, infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs), tanks, and assorted small arms fire.
As the DFRLab previously reported, the incident in which the OSCE SMM monitor was killed in a likely mine accident on April 23 was in neighboring Pryshyb. The use of a 203mm weapon is a clear sign of escalation and a likely abuse of the OSCE SMM’s limited capacity as it continues to operate under restricted conditions after the April 23 incident.