Machine gun-wielding judges fight off Russian drone attacks from Kyiv rooftops, report says

  • Ukrainian judges armed with aged machine guns are helping to defend Kyiv by shooting down drones.

  • Thirty-five judges are part of Mriya, a volunteer paramilitary squad, The Wall Street Journal reported.

  • "If I do not do this now, my children and grandson will not have a peaceful future," said one judge.

Ukrainian judges are helping to defend Kyiv by shooting Russian drones out of the sky, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Approximately 35 judges are part of a paramilitary squad called the Mriya, which comprises about 380 volunteers. Some of the judges are retired, while others still work within the judicial system of Ukraine.

The judges joined air defense efforts last fall when Russia started firing Iranian-made Shahed drones at Ukraine. The volunteers defend their capital with machine guns, strategically positioning themselves on Kyiv's rooftops.

Their contributions complement the sophisticated Western air defense systems that have succeeded in thwarting many of the multiple attacks on Kyiv, per The Associated Press.

Among the group of judges is Ukraine's highest tribunal on unconstitutional issues, Judge Yuriy Chumak of the country's Supreme Court. He told the Wall Street Journal that the Mriya squad had taken down five Iranian-made Shahed drones.

The Iranian-made weapon can fly 1,250 miles and linger or loiter over a target area. The small systems are packed with explosives and can be directed at targets in an area once on-site and then detonate upon impact like a missile. When launched in swarms, they can cause a lot of damage.

But the drones travel relatively slowly, up to 115 miles an hour, which makes them feasible targets for machine gun fire.

The Mriya volunteers defend the skies about Ukraine's capital with vintage weapons, including a 1944 Soviet Maxim recoil-operated machine gun and a smaller 1964 Czechoslovakian general-purpose machine gun. The guns are "an easy and cheap way" to take out the drones, Chumak said.

Ukrainian forces have found the Maxim M1910 — first introduced in 1910  — useful in the fight against the Russians. Ukraine's troops have modified the guns with modern add-ons such as optics and suppressors, according to reporting from Task and Purpose.

"Like a hunter shooting an antelope"

A drone approaches for an attack in Kyiv on October 17, 2022.
A drone approaches for an attack in Kyiv on October 17, 2022.Photo by YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP via Getty Images

Viktor Fomon, 61, a retired judge from southern Ukraine. The grandfather was initially turned away from the territorial defense in Kyiv because of his age. He eventually enlisted but was terminated half a year later because of his age.

Within a week of his termination, he began volunteering with the Mriya. "If I do not do this now," he told The Wall Street Journal, "my children and grandson will not have a peaceful future."

The volunteers work in teams of three or four, using tablets, night-vision goggles, and lasers to track incoming drones. Judge Chumak, 48, told The Wall Street Journal that when the drones get close, "they're noisy. You can hear it." The judges survey the sky from a makeshift shed in the winter and use a camouflage-covered patio in the summer.

A Shahed drone is "easier to shoot if it comes toward you," he added. But if it's buzzing across the sky, you aim slightly ahead before firing, like a hunter shooting an antelope."

Meanwhile, the work of the lawyers-turned-Shahed hunters could be about to intensify. Fears are growing of a new air campaign against Ukraine's national power grid, similar to the blitz last winter that forced the people of Kyiv and other cities to endure power cuts in the coldest months.

The inexpensive drones have become a core weapon in President Vladimir Putin's arsenal, and recent reports said Russia was planning to build thousands of drones — called Geran-2s — based on the Shahed but packing a more powerful punch.

These drones would be able to coordinate and conduct attacks, including swarm attacks, with autonomy, presumably relying on artificial intelligence, Insider's Chris Panella wrote.



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