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Think tank analysis: Russia’s Rail Line: Shaping Ukraine’s Front


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Recent updates from UK intelligence and the Institute of Study of War (ISW) shed light on Russia’s ongoing activities in Ukraine.

A new railway line under construction to the occupied city of Mariupol and evolving tactics to change the city’s demographics are raising concerns. This article delves into these developments, highlighting their implications and the evolving situation in Ukraine.


Russia’s New Railway Line to Mariupol

The British Ministry of Defense’s war intelligence update reveals that Russia is actively constructing a new railway line leading to the occupied city of Mariupol. This project is strategically aimed at reducing travel times for supplies heading to the Zaporizhzhia front. Rail logistics continue to play a pivotal role in sustaining Russia’s invasion in Ukraine, allowing the movement of ammunition, armored vehicles, fuel, and personnel.


The report emphasizes that Russia is aware of the vulnerability of its rail network in occupied Ukraine to sporadic interdiction by Ukrainian artillery, air-launched missiles, and sabotage. While past conflicts have seen rail transportation attrition from air and ground attacks, Russia appears to be using civilian contractors and equipment to complete this project. This approach complicates targeting efforts and preserves military railway troop capabilities for more urgent tasks elsewhere.


Changing Demographics in Mariupol

The ISW’s report unveils another dimension of Russia’s activities in Mariupol. Russian occupation authorities are reportedly engaged in efforts to forcibly depopulate the city of Ukrainians and replace them with Russians. This strategy aims to reshape the city’s demographics and strengthen Russia’s hold on the region.


The Ukrainian Resistance Center’s findings indicate that Russian authorities have brought over 25,000 construction workers from Russia and Central Asian countries to occupied Mariupol. These migrant workers have formed ethnic gangs involved in various illicit activities, including arms and drug trafficking, smuggling, scrap metal collection, illegal transportation, and construction.


Implications and Concerns


The construction of a new railway line to Mariupol underscores Russia’s commitment to maintaining and enhancing its logistics and supply routes in the region. It is a critical component of its ongoing military operations in Ukraine. This development also highlights Russia’s strategy of using civilian personnel and equipment for strategic projects, reducing the risk of direct military engagement in these areas.


The evolving demographics of Mariupol, driven by the influx of Russian construction workers and the displacement of Ukrainians, raise concerns about the city’s future. This tactic aligns with Russia’s efforts to consolidate control over occupied territories, making it more challenging for Ukraine to regain control in the long term.




Russia’s ongoing activities in Ukraine, including the construction of a new railway line to Mariupol and attempts to change the city’s demographics, have far-reaching implications for the region’s stability. These developments underscore the need for continued international attention and diplomatic efforts to address the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and its consequences on the ground. The situation remains dynamic, and monitoring these evolving tactics is crucial for understanding the evolving landscape in the region.

Abu Bakr Alvi
Abu Bakr Alvi
Mr. Abu Bakr Alvi, Senior Journalist Based in Faisalabad

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