What Weapons Did Wagner Capture in the Soledar Mines?

At the beginning of May 2023, Russian media shared a flurry of videos from salt mines near Soledar. The videos showcased a captured weapons storage depot said to be inside part of the mine complex which was recently captured by Russian private military contractor unit Wagner. Most interesting was the lack of modern weaponry displayed, indicating Ukraine may have removed the more useful equipment stored there. The mine is located in the vicinity of the settlements of Paraskoviivka and Soledar, north of Bakhmut.

A Lend-Lease M1A1 Thompson removed from its shipping crate (via social media)

The mines contain a former Soviet arms storage facility, initially said to have been established in the late 1950s, which was taken over by Ukraine when the USSR collapsed. There is also a small arms and light weapons repair facility established by the Ukrainian Army. The facility was temporarily seized by Separatists forces in April 2014, with one Separatist militia member then telling Sky News that: “There are rifles, machine guns, heavy weapons and millions and millions of rounds of ammunition. We are here to stop the forces of the west and anyone else for that matter from getting their hands on them.” Later fighting saw the region secured by Ukrainian forces and the mine back under Ukrainian control.

With the heavy fighting in the region and Bakhmut becoming a focus of Russia’s offensive efforts in the second half of 2022 and the first half of 2023, the mines have again become a focal point. Russia reported that the area the mines were located was captured in mid-February but it wasn’t until early May that the weapons depot was secured and featured in a flurry of videos.

A crate of damaged AK-74s at the captured Ukrainian repair facility (via A. Simonov)

Using the videos shared by Russian media outlets and individuals lets take a look at what has reportedly been captured. From the imagery it is immediately clear that the depot appears to have been stripped of the most useful and modern materiel which was stored there. Videos from the mine focus on the scale of the depot and the plethora of vintage weapons which are said to be stored there.

The first video posted by Alexander Simonov, an RIA contributor, on his personal page on 30 April, begins with the reporter descending in an elevator explaining that the depot is 150 metres below ground. He describes the scale of the facility as ‘impressive’ spanning 5km with 28 galleries and a repair facility. He also explains that Ukraine’s retreating armed forces removed the most modern equipment and unsuccessfully attempted to mine the depot’s entrance. Simonov says that the depot primarily holding small arms ammunition. Simonov speaks to an individual who shows him parts of the depot and explains how it was set up in the 1960. The individual describes the galleries as almost 400 metres long – with torches failing to illuminate the whole gallery. Simonov is told theres 292,000 boxes containing small arms.

Prigozhin opens a crate of three PM1910 Maxims (Wagner)

Simonov is then shown a repair facility where badly damaged weapons have been abandoned by the Ukrainians when they retreated from the depot. The weapons appear to have been sent to the depot where their damage would be assessed to see if it was possible to repair them. The weapons seen include: AK-74 and AKS-74s, two damaged Barrett M107A1 rifle, DP-27s and SPG-9 recoilless guns.

In one shot there are hundreds of stocks for SKS carbines [misidentified in the video as Mosin-Nagant stocks] seen and in a clip from Simonov’s RIA report shelves filled with AK-74 furniture are seen. In another clip posted a on 1 May, Simonov also examines a DShK heavy machine gun which the Ukrainians have adapted with a muzzlebrake, bipod and stock. Next to it is a PK general purpose machine gun.

One of the weapons depot’s 28 galleries with thousands of boxes stacked (via A. Simonov)

The RIA report published on 30 April, appears to have been filmed at the same time and shows boxes of AK magazines, manuals and walls hung with Soviet-era small arms disassembly posters as well as the shelves of AK furniture seen in the first video. Another shot shows an AK-74 still in a vice and a disassembled a AGS grenade machine gun in a crate.

An Izvestia report published on 2 May shows more of the weapons stored in the depot with the footage showing a crate of Second World War Lend-Lease M1 Thompson submachine guns. Also seen are DPM light machine guns and damaged weapons including an RPG-7 and AK-74s. The video also shows the 4.5 tons of explosive stacked to blow the entrance to the galleries.

Prigozhin lifts the original packing paper to show an M1928A1 Thompson (Wagner)

Also published on the 2 May was the first video showing Yevgeny Prigozhin, owner of the Wagner group, visiting the mine. In the video Prigozhin shows off some more Lend-Lease Thompsons submachine guns, this time M1928A1s, “new in oil packing’ he says. He also mentions that there are thousands of PPSh and PPS submachine guns and Maxims, showing a crate containing three PM1910 Maxim guns. In the video he says: “Do we really need this? Should we leave it here to rot further? I wrote to everyone I could. No one is interested.” Suggesting that he would exchange them for shells to support Wagner operations. Despite Prigozhin mentioning PPSh and PPS submachine guns we’ve been unable to find any imagery of the weapons in the mines.

Since 2 May, there has been no further imagery from the mines. It remains to be seen if any of the weapons stored in the mine are utilised by Russia and what exactly is held there with some sources suggesting tens of thousands of weapons dating from the first and second World Wars and later. With many of the weapons obsolescent the most useful of those shown in the videos will likely be the old Soviet machine guns (the DPs and Maxims) and the small arms ammunition. The old Soviet submachine guns and Thompsons will be of less practical value. It’s telling that the officially released videos showed little modern equipment.

Support Us: If you enjoyed this video and article please consider supporting our work here. We have some great perks available for Patreon Supporters – including early access to custom stickers and early access to videos! Thank you for your support!


Protesters in Ukraine guard biggest weapons cache in eastern Europe, Guardian, (source)
Ukraine: Militia Controls A Million Weapons, Sky News, (source)
Pro-Russia Activists Set Up Checkpoints in Ukraine’s Far East, VOA, (source)
Retreating Ukrainian troops tried to destroy salt mines in Soledar, TASS, (source)
Ukrainian light weapons captured in Soledar exceed one million, PL, (source)

MTs-566 In Ukraine

On 15 March a report from Russia’s Federal News Agency featured an interesting semi-automatic sniper rifle – the MTs-566. The report shows a sniper team from Wagner, Russia’s largest private military contractor, in position in Bakhmut. The date the piece was filmed is unclear but the rifle itself is rarely seen and the footage gives us a decent look at the rifle and even of it firing a couple of rounds.

The MTs-566 is produced by TsKIB SOO, the Central Bureau for Sporting and Hunting Arms at Tula. It’s chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO and uses a short stroke gas piston system. It fulfils a similar role to the US M110 series of rifles or Ukraine’s UAR-10s. The MTs-566 was developed from the OTs-129 designated marksman rifle developed for a Russian military requirement. It has a 60cm or 24in barrel, feeds from 7.62 PMags and has a full length top rail. It also has a pair of folding iron sights and a side folding stock. It has a quad-rail forend and a suppressor which partially shrouds the rifle’s barrel. In the civilian version at least the suppressor is more of an empty expansion chamber without baffles, whether that’s the case with production guns or rifles purchased for military use is unclear. If the expansion chamber can is in use here then it appears to help somewhat. TsKIB SOO list the weight of the rifle as 4.8kg or 10.6lbs and its overall length as 125cm or 49in though other sources do vary slightly. Notably, the weapon’s lower receiver is much shallower with the pistol grip positioned much higher than say on an AR-10, suggesting a different firing mechanism requiring less space than the AR-10’s hammer. 

It was displayed for the first time in 2018 and was reportedly aimed at the civilian hunting market and due to be on sale in 2020. My good friend Hrachya got a good look at one at the 2018 Russian Arms & Hunting Expo. He wrote up a detailed article on it for TFB. The rifle has some interesting features including integral folding iron sights rather than rail mounted sights – the Russian military believed that these could be too easily damaged so Tula engineers designed integral sights, the rear sight folds back into the hinge of the stock. There is also rail space attached directly to the rifles receiver, seemingly for the mounting of accessories. 

The Russian news report says the sniper team is at work in Bakhmut. The sniper describes his rifle and notes its mounted with a 20x optic.  The sniper also says that:“I work at a distance of 700-800, sometimes 1000 [meters],” He also briefly talks about the 7.62x51mm round the MTs-566 uses, noting that: it works well and that it’s a pleasant round to shoot, he also says that while smaller they have good velocity downrange. During the clip the sniper fires two rounds in quick succession while his spotter watches the target downrange. It’s unclear what ammunition they are using but the rifle is said to be capable of 1 MOA accuracy but I couldn’t find any figures from  TsKIB SOO. It’s unclear how many MTs-566s might be in use in the field but this report represents the best look at the rifle we’ve had so far.

Update 02/04/22:

On 12 March, the Russian Уголок Ситха telegram channel shared a post which included a photo captioned “Russian 7.62×51 mm OTs-129 sniper rifle”, it appears to be an MTS-566.

Update 21/03/23:

Additional photographs of an MTS-566 with Wagner shared via Telegram.

Update 17/04/23:

An MTS-566 seen in a RIA news report about Wagner fighting in Bakhmut.

Support Us: If you enjoyed this video and article please consider supporting our work here. We have some great perks available for Patreon Supporters – including early access to custom stickers and early access to videos! Thank you for your support!


How Wagner PMC Snipers Work in Bakhmut, RIAFAN, (source)

TsKIB SOO’s archived website c.2021 (source)

TsKIB SOO MTs-566 Rifle, TFB, (source)

MTs-566, Modern Firearms, (source)

Sniper rifle OTs-129, TopWar, (source)

My thanks top Soviet Army Fan over on twitter for some help with translation.

Makeshift Fire Extinguisher RPG Warhead

In December images of Chechen volunteers fighting with the Ukrainian Armed Forces began to feature an interesting craft-made weapon – an RPG munition made from the body of a small fire extinguisher. 

These RPG-warheads improvised from fire extinguishers have appeared in numerous videos and photographs of the Sheikh Mansur Battalion. The battalion was formed back in 2014 and is made up of exiled Chechens who reject Russian control of their region. The battalion itself is named after an 18th century Chechen military leader Sheikh Mansur. The battalion had disbanded in 2019, but reformed in March 2022 following the invasion. Since then they have reportedly seen action during the Battle of Kyiv, in the Donbas, during the Battle of Sievierodonetsk and most recently in the fighting around Bakhmut. 

There’s a long history of improvised warheads adapted for launch from the RPG-7 but I think this is the first time I’ve seen a fire extinguisher body used, at least in this phase of the fighting in Ukraine. 

A section of the Sheikh Mansur Battalion, with a craft-made fire extinguisher munition, Bahkmut, December 2022 (via Sheikh Mansur Battalion)

It appears that the fire extinguisher body has been emptied and filled with whatever explosive and shrapnel material is readily available and then adapted to fit the sustainer motor and booster assemblies. They appear to use V-429 or V-429E point detonating fuzes. These fuzes were developed for use on high explosive (HE) projectiles used by various Combloc weapon systems including the T-12 and MT-12 100mm anti-tank guns and the 115mm main gun of the T-62 and 125mm main guns of the T-64, T-72, T-80 and T-90 series tanks. Some other fuzes appear to be used too but conceivably any impact fuze would work. The inertia armed fuzes normally arm within 5-15m of the muzzle once fired from a conventional barrel. It appears that the fuzes have been epoxied into place.

Close up of a craft-made fire extinguisher munition, Bahkmut, December 2022 (via social media)

How the mass and shape of the improvised round impacts the velocity of the warhead once it is fired is unclear. But Bild correspondent Bjorn Stritzel, who recently met with members of the Battalion while writing an article about them, told me that the range of the warheads is about 100m. He noted that the Chechen’s have found them to be ‘very effective in Bakhmut’ and that ‘apparently its firepower surprised RF entrenched in houses’ according to radio chatter picked up by the Battalion. 

While we don’t have a perfect close up of them the extinguishers themselves appear to be small 2kg (or 5lbs) units which contain powder. From a quick survey of some Ukrainian websites which sell the extinguishers, the price of these ranges between 300 and 500 Hryvnias (or $8 & $14).

A member of the Sheik Mansur Battalion demonstrates a craft-made fire extinguisher munition, Bahkmut, December 2022 (via Sky News)

The fire extinguisher rounds are probably being used as anti-personnel weapons which would be fitting for the sort of fighting occurring around Bakhmut where the majority of the imagery is said to be coming from. The thin steel body of the extinguisher may provide suitable fragmentation or depending on the metallurgy it may just rupture. According to Stritzel the filling of the warheads is around 50% explosive and 50% shrapnel material. He also noted that the Chechen’s described the warhead as being “three times more powerful than a normal OG-7V [fragmentation RPG-7 round]”. 

Two craft-made fire extinguisher munitions, Bahkmut, December 2022 (via Bjorn Stritzel)

The first video featuring the improvised warheads was published by the Sheikh Mansur Battalion on their social media in around mid December. In a Sky News report from the 22 December, a member of the Battalion demonstrates how one of the extinguisher warheads is loaded. A video posted to the Battalion’s social media on the 27 December showed a number, perhaps four, of the improvised rounds stacked ready for use with booster assemblies attached. 

On the 31 December, the Battalion shared a photograph of a group of eight Battalion members, one of which can be seen holding an RPG-7 with one of the improvised extinguisher rounds loaded. During the second week of January, a short, undated, video of an individual in a fighting position firing one of the craft-made warheads was shared. We get some idea of the weight of the round in this clip.

The most recent video (see stills above), posted on TikTok, on the 12 January, shows two of the improvised munitions being fired. These warheads follow the same design but differ slightly in that the fire extinguisher body appears to have been cut open at the centre and then welded back together. Perhaps this is done to easier fill the munition or perhaps to shorten a longer extinguisher body. For the first time we also get to see the explosion of the rounds down range. This video again gives us a good indication of the weight of the round from the movement of the shooter. It also illustrates the distances the rounds can travel. Notably it appears to be used here against a Russian field work rather than against a building.

With fighting continuing in Bakhmut we are likely to see more of these improvised fire extinguisher rounds in use, especially if they are as effective as the Sheikh Mansur Battalion suggest.

Support Us: If you enjoyed this video and article please consider supporting our work here. We have some great perks available for Patreon Supporters – including early access to custom stickers and early access to videos! Thank you for your support!


V429 Fuze, CAT UXO, (source)

V429E Fuze, CAT UXO, (source)

‘They prefer death to Russian torture’, Bild, (source)

The Chechens fighting Putin in Ukraine, Sky News, (source)