Tales from the Witch of Ukraine – TTG

The United States has supplied weapons of increasing cost and sophistication to Ukraine including M777 towed howitzers, Javelin top-attack anti-tank missiles, and eventually M1 Abrams main battle tanks and Patriot air defense systems. But military aid need not always be exotic to have an impact. Starting before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine one year ago and continued since, the U.S. also provided modest quantities of low-tech infantry support weapons—M240 and M2 machine guns, 60-millimeter mortars, Mark 19 automatic grenade launchers, and M82 Barret sniper rifles.

These small arms have made their way both to elite commando units, but also to some of Ukraine’s most under-equipped troops, where they are making a difference as testified by Olha Bihar, known by her callsign “Witch” (Vyzdma). Formerly a lawyer working on her Ph.D., Witch now commands a mortar platoon in the 204th battalion of the 241st Separate Territorial Defense Force (TDF) Brigade. At least 57,000 women serve in Ukraine’s armed forces, including at least 13,000 in roles near frontline combat.

The lightly armed 241st, ostensibly formed for local defense of the capital Kyiv, was one of several brigades thrust into the thick of the fighting for Bakhmut, a town in Eastern Ukraine of middling strategic value that has become an obsessive focus of Russian offensive operations. Since the fall of 2022, tens of thousands of Russian soldiers and mercenaries have been killed or wounded attempting to capture the city.

In a video, Witch recounts an intense battle between October 5-8, 2022 when her platoon defended Bakhmut’s Siniat ALC asphalt mixing plant. (Her translated comments have been lightly altered for concision.)


Comment: Witch’s accounts of using the Mk 19 grenade launcher in an indirect fire mode brings a smile to this old soldier’s face. It’s not a new concept. It was used by 3/5 Marines against the Taliban in 2010. A “Marine Corps Gazette” article from 2020 details exactly how this was done. The technique sounds quite complicated, more complicated than I think it has to be. But then again, Ive never employed a Mk 19 grenade launcher.  


The method used by the witch’s weapons platoon uses a drone for initial target location and adjustment of fire. I imagine it still uses some kind of artillery gunner’s quadrant to determine elevation of the gun and a firing table to match the distance to target to elevation. I bet some smart Ukrainian cybergeek could create an app to do all that. Tap in the distance to target, lay the smart phone along the barrel or receiver and the screen turns green when the gun is at the correct elevation. I’m sure most smart phones have inclinometer and compass apps. Should be an easy hack.

We learned how to use our M-60 machine guns in an indirect fire mode during an exchange tour with the Royal Australian Regiment. They used a standard mortar sight attached to a tripod mounted M-60, aiming stakes and a firing table. It was the same technique used in firing mortars. I haven’t seen that taught in any US military schools, although it’s not a new technique. It was used with Vickers guns in WWI, WWII and elsewhere. With a drone and the right app, a squad/platoon machine gun (tripod mounted) could easily and quickly be used as an indirect fire area weapon. These are the types of techniques that should be taught in all infantry and territorial defense type units. 





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32 Responses to Tales from the Witch of Ukraine – TTG

  1. Whitewall says:

    The Witch is one bad ass lawyer. I like that term ‘orcs’ she uses, very Tolkien-ish. She is an able motivator and communicator which must inspire a high degree of loyalty. All she does and keeps her nails done too?!

    • Fourth and Long says:

      I thought TTG’s YouTube link might be to this video where the “Witch” tells her battle story with English subtitles but no, it was something about Vickers machine guns. She looks like a very bright, competent person who is undoubtedly an inspiration. I don’t know but the use of the term “Witch” may be borrowed from the days of the Great Patriotic War when a heroic squadron of female Soviet fighter pilots were known as The Night Witches because most of their raids were flown at night.


      • TTG says:


        The linked “Popular Mechanics” link contains two subtitled videos from the Witch, including the one in your link. I put the last three links up here for historical reference. Deliberately aimed indirect fire with machine guns is not a new concept. But it’s use with automatic grenade launchers seriously enhances small unit indirect fire support.

        • Whitewall says:

          That is the full lineup of links I saw too. Extremely close quarters it seems. Takes nerves of steel I believe.

        • Fourth and Long says:

          Sorry, Old boy, I missed that, I didn’t mean to imply anything. Pat yourself on the back – your post was so interesting it sent me surfing. I read too much and never sleep so I skip over things and nod off in the middle of articles.

          • TTG says:


            No sweat. I’m glad the post sparked your interest. I don’t think it’s uncommon for women soldiers to be referred to as witches or call themselves witches. There are quite a few Baba Yaga stories in slavic folklore. Only peripherally related I remember my father referring to one of brothers as a wobogis, a mystical wild man of the woods, when he came in from a days of logging. I don’t know. I think there’s a lot going for the feral lifestyle and look.

      • Whitewall says:

        F&L, the term ‘Moscovite’ she used is odd. Makes me wonder just who is doing the up close fighting in this ongoing campaign? The Wagner guys I know, but the rest of the cannon fodder…maybe a great many Russians from the fringes of the Federation?

        • Fourth and Long says:

          Prisons, my man. Wagner had and has a core of real tough “pro” soldiers and former special operators etc but has been recruiting from prisons quite heavily this past year. Then there was a transition recently and the real Ru armed forces are recruiting from prisons too. There was even word that Wagner has been forbidden from using prisoners. I assume you know about the serious disputes between Prighozhin (Wagner CEO) and the Gerasimov – Shoigu tag team (head of armed forces and defense Secy respectively). Shoigu is the “plywood marshall” of I.I.Strelkov’s memorable epithets.

          The racist denigration is at high pitch in some quarters as in all wars. “Muscovite” is a derogatory term more or less signifying people ruled by Moscow in this context and I guess it has a long history but don’t know really. One of the funniest terms is an abbreviation term used to refer to the Russian President by Russians, in fact, who are critical and disappointed in his leadership. His initials in Latin are VVP, but in Cyrillic ВВП. So they refer to him, especially in economic contexts as ВВП but the joke is that the term for Gross Domestic Product in Russian is Валовой внутренний продукт (Valovoy vnutrenniy produkt ) which has the same initials acronym as Putin’s name. In the translation apps I use it’s translated as GDP, where they’re obviously talking about the president. Wtf? I said. I eventually figured it out. They’re calling him their what? I laughed myself silly. Good for the health.

          Concerning prison recruitment this song “Three hundred Thirty Three” has become a huge hit after a former Lt Colonel in the Ru federal penitentiary service who is a very good musician composed it and began singing it at rallies.


          See here for the song:

          Originally I thought the 333 was the devil’s number cut in half and represented defeating Satan as with the new ideology. But the first thing that came up when I translated “three hundred three” into Russian in an iphone app was a New York Times article from 2007 about how the exact number of children and other civilians killed in the Beslan massacre was 333. Then I found the above article from aif.ru which explains it’s an artillery commander’s order.

          My own exegesis is that war is hell and 333 is one half of the devil’s number (Ru in this case) and the other side (NATO & Ukraine) is the remaining 333 for the terrible evil total.

      • Leith says:

        Fourth and Long –

        I’m sure you are close to the truth that she borrowed her call sign from the Night Witches, as many of those female bomber pilots were Ukrainian. Some others were Tatar, Khazak, or non-Russian ethnicity.

        She has a TikTok account with 40 or 50 video snippets. Some taken by her or by others in her name. Most from December up to last week in Bakhmut. Does Ukraine allow Chinese tracking of TikTok location data? Bad OPSEC vibes if they do.

        I’m liking that Red Army Tokarev pistol that she holsters on her flak jacket. Her grandfather’s maybe?

        • Fourth and Long says:

          Be careful, very careful if you are old, overweight and hypertensive like me not to die laughing (it happens) reading the subtitles and Russian comments (only 3,297) to this recent video of Strelkov’s. If you still remember your Russian you’re all set but I need the bots.

          Shooter’s (Strelkov) in rage over Putin’s address:

          By now you guys should know but I do it by watching the video in YT iphone app, hitting the wheel in URHC, then tapping autotranslate, then English, then going back to the tape. For the comments it won’t work (it does for many languages but they disabled Ru for the YT app) but if you copy the link (under share) and open it in the safari or chrome (maybe edge too) browsers for iphone, and implement the translate feature from the address bar pulldown, the comments will translate. (it can be a bit buggy, also the synopticon can interfere). My favorite so far is the guy who referred to his head as a “food appliance.” I am a very sick man. Please forgive me.

          • Leith says:

            Does it work in Ukrainian? My baby sister in Savannah says her beau was hooking up a stove in a house being donated to a Ukrainian woman and her kids by a local church. The woman only had limited Ukrenglish words so she broke out her cell phone, and they did some stove Q&A via an app on her phone. I wonder if its the same one you mention?

          • Fourth and Long says:

            Don’t know. They’re adding various features and debugging them (a clue about duration?). The Edge browser for iOs – just tried it briefly – it’s powerful with translation but still buggy here. It said that the long version of Strelkov’s video was “Tranlated from Ukrainian” but the thing was in Russian. Buggy and or they just have a chubby for the Russians. The Edge browser actually translates the Russian in realtime overwriting the Russian subs and slowly transforming into English. A bit weird. Probably on their machines it’s instantaneous. They will sure have blockbuster movies by the dozens one day.

        • Peter Williams says:

          Soviets did not call them Night Witches, that was the Germans.

  2. Fourth and Long says:

    This is for laughs but there’s good info on rods from God and how desperate Erdogan is now that his shoddy construction led to countless more deaths than otherwise – briefly, “the quakes were caused by a space weapon that shot an unarmed object 8 km into the earth!”

    This one is for conspiracy nuts and paranoiacs but also very informative (and hopefully not too relevant …


    But look at the first paragraph’s last sentence “The body is made of artillery barrels.” and
    ask your inner Qanon crackpot if that’s where all the West’s cannon tubes have disappeared to. Of course not.

    Original link in Russian is here and the other original is within this one too:

    • Fourth and Long says:

      From the 2nd through 5th letters of “Erdogan” you can form the words “rod” and “god” – is the Sultan a puzzle enthusiast?

      What do you call an election poster for the president of Turkey now?

      Answer: An Erdogonad.


  3. Sam says:

    “In its current state, the Russian army is unable to defeat the Ukrainian Armed Forces”.


    It will be interesting to see how the Russian army performs in their upcoming offensive. What lessons have they learned from their first year on the battlefield in Ukraine?

    Of course the other side of the coin is the question, can the Ukrainian army defeat the Russian military in Ukraine?

    • TTG says:


      Upcoming offensive? They’re several weeks into it. Whatever they may have learned is now hampered by equipment and ammo shortages and the poor quality of mobiks. If the Ukrainians expect to do better, they should wait for their new equipment to come online.

  4. Leith says:

    I’ve seen the old M79 Blooper grenade launcher used in an indirect fire mode in Viet-Nam. Even tho it’s ammo back then did not have air burst capability. Heard sea stories from a guy at our VFW who claimed the old M72 LAW was also used in high angle fire when fire support was not available. Seems to me that would not have been very effective. But what do I know?

    What everybody loved back then was the 60mm mortar. Typically deployed one section with a rifle platoon on patrol. But one time saw it attached down to a rifle squad.

    • TTG says:


      The Marines in Hawaii still had the older 60mm mortar. The smallest we had in the 25th ID was the 81mm. One day on the range I saw a fire plug of a Marine NCO wearing one of those bulky flak jackets and his helmet, of course. He had a complete 60mm mortar with bipod, baseplate and sight slung over his shoulder. It could have been a recruiting poster or comic book art.

  5. Sam says:

    If this report is true. It’s a “BIG THING”

    The Russian VKS operational fleet of A-50 airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) planes is very small.


    If this report of an attack on a Russian AWACS in Belarus is accurate then it appears that Belarus is not necessarily a safe haven for Russian military assets.

  6. Leith says:

    TTG – I recall years ago seeing video from Syria of a Kurdish YPG fighter using a cell phone to aim his mortar on Daesh targets. (Or maybe the target was Turkish controlled FSA?)

    Looking it up now, the closest thing I could find was this link of an FSA guy using an IPad from September 2013: https://abcnews.go.com/Technology/syrian-rebel-ipad-aiming-mortar/story?id=20296936

    I’m told Apple in 2010 was first to put gyros in IPhones and IPads, which gave them the ability to detect motion in 6-axes. But how precise – I have no clue. But I’m guessing that they are better now. And probably all the Android phones and tablets have something similar.

    PS – re the 60mm, I’ve heard that some enterprising young mortarmen used their helmet for a baseplate in a pinch.

    • TTG says:


      Smartphones, at least iPhones have a GPS accuracy within a foot. The azimuth and elevation is probably very accurate. The only problem would be placing the phone on the correct spot on the barrel or receiver every time. I’m sure a small, simple positioning device could be fabbed up in a day if needed. It would probably be easier to do all this, including the app, than mounting a mortar sight on the grenade launchers and machine guns and teaching everyone how to use the sight and aiming stakes.

      We never used helmets for baseplates, but you can always tell who the mortar men were by the shredded camo covers on their helmets. Helmets were routinely used as hammers to pound camo net stakes.

      • Klapper says:

        Smart phones are not accurate to a foot in instantaneous readings, even with the most ideal constellation geometry. Maybe 10 times that on a good day.

        • Leith says:

          Klapper –

          I think the bigger problem might be in the inaccuracy of Apple maps or the maps used by Android phones. Or perhaps the CEP precision of the weapon system used.

          But I’m curious as to how you define an instantaneous reading? Your wording suggests the reading becomes more accurate over time. And I’m also wondering if you considered the new dual frequency GPS support in the latest cell phones?

          • Klapper says:

            Survey grade GPS receivers can be set on a tripod and run in “static” survey mode, gathering data over multiple hours at one position and as the satellite constellation shifts overhead the errors in position due to unknown tropospheric delays and vertical and horizontal dilution of precision due to unfavorable constellation geometry over time cancel out.

            Cell phones can’t do this that I’m aware and unless Iphones are set up to connect to a real time tropospheric delay corrections data stream from a nearby GPS reference station, which I’m guessing they are not, then don’t count on a position better than 5 m or so.

            The military must have procedures for putting in these known position control points to set up a GPS reference station on from which can be broadcast an encrypted corrections data stream. It’s the only way to get reliably precise real time locations from GPS. I would guess the military don’t need cm grade location precision but more slop in locating a weapons position and azimuth compounds it’s mechanical accuracy slop.

            How do you guys do it anyway?

      • LeaNder says:

        Smartphones, at least iPhones have a GPS accuracy within a foot.

        Great. I asked myself in 2012 if such data exists. Only in real time or stored somewhere too as traceable movements? Or only in real time for indirect fire?

  7. drifter says:

    Not on topic, but regard to the “culminating point” proposed by Clausewitz, maybe we need to distinguish between a “dynamic” culminating point, which is battlefield or maneuver dependent, and a “strategic” culminating point which arises when the imbalance of production (or war-fighting generation) is clarified.

    • TTG says:


      My interpretation of Clauswitz’s culminating point is that it could be applied at many levels. A culminating point does not mean inevitable defeat. Prior to the influx of mobiks and convict soldiers, Russian forces were at or approaching a culminating point. The addition of those reinforcements changed the equation and they were able to initiate the current feeble offensive efforts. I think that due to the current high rate of Russian casualties, they will soon approach another culminating point. As the Russian logistics system is being outstripped by the Russian Army’s losses in equipment, ammunition and other supplies, a strategic culminating point is approaching. If China decides to fill that logistic need, the equation will change again.

      • Bill Roche says:

        Agree re Chinese “backfill”. Col. Lang and Herr Clauswitz were talking about a tactical culminating point but, per drifter, there is(?) a strategic culminating point which will happen first. If
        China won’t help can Iran and N. Korea provide the ammunition and equipment Putin needs? Can they mass produce. Conversely if Norway, Sweden, Finland, Britain, Germany, France, Holland, and the U.S. “pour it on” can Putin’s military be overwhelmed? When one thinks about “tooth to tail” (there was a similarly titled tune in the play “Chorus Line”) it means more than manpower. Re Russian manpower I continue to wonder about the Russian soul. Sorry to be so “mysterious” but are Russians still peasants at heart, willing to give up their lives for that mystical idea of “empire”. What do they get for it? What was that ’70 song … War, oomph what is it it good for? Absolutely nuthin! In 2023 will Russian youth still fill the ranks up front to perpetuate a Russian Empire? We’ll see.

        • TTG says:

          Bill Roche,

          Not long after the 2016 election I wrote about the Russian concept of reflexive control and information confrontation. You’d think I kicked somebody’s puppy by the reaction I got. But this stuff is real and Moscow has always been dead serious about it. I watched Putin’s people put their mark on this stuff in the years after he came to power. A big part of their program was preparing the Russian people to support Putin’s vision for Russia without question. We’re seeing the results of that effort now. Still, half a million young Russian men left rather than join the Russian Army and fight for dear leader.

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