When the Russo-Ukrainian War began in 2014 with the first Russian invasion, the Ukrainian Army was small and poorly equipped, and so not able to offer any resistance. With the second invasion in 2022 things were very different, and Ukraine fought back to defend its homeland. At the time of writing this war is into it’s ninth year, and it has been 18 months since the second Russian invasion, so it is very much an active war, and no one knows what the outcome will be. Of course it is rare for anyone to make a set of figures for an ongoing conflict, but this first such set for this war depicts Ukrainian defenders and is, unsurprisingly, made in Ukraine itself.
One of the first facets of this set that caught our attention was that every figure holds a different weapon. Identifying these has been extremely difficult as the enormous quantities of war material donated by the international community to aid Ukraine in its fight means there is a very wide range of items currently being used, and at this scale several would look quite similar. However, we have made our guesses as to what is on show here, so starting with the left-hand figure in our top row, here they are:
- This man seems to hold a Fort-224 carbine to his shoulder, which is a variant of the Israeli Tavar TAR-21 assault rifle made in the Ukraine under licence. Its basic shape is reminiscent of the Ukrainian Malyuk rifle, but at 9mm in length (65 cm) it is too short to be that weapon. Although a small weapon there is good detail on this model, and we liked the pose very much too as the man moves forward.
- The second soldier holds an assault rifle at the shoulder which could be one of several models in use today. The most likely candidate is an AK-74 with either a GP-25 or GP-34 grenade launcher attached.
- The kneeling man is a sniper, and looks to be holding an SVD (Dragunov Sniper Rifle) with sight attached. Again the weapon looks good, and while you might expect a sniper to be prone, this is still a perfectly good pose in our view.
- The final man in the row is on his back and firing a pistol. It’s a very unusual and dramatic pose, and a tricky one to produce with a conventional steel mould, but it works well here. His pistol looks like a Fort-12, and he has a submachine gun slung on his back which is partly obscured by his body.
Such are our guesses, and if correct then all are perfectly suitable for this conflict, as are so many other weapons. If anyone has any suggestions for improvements to our guesses they are all welcome. However, the sheer quantity of weapons given to Ukraine since 2022 mean a set of just eight poses can barely begin to depict them all, much less reflect the proportions of each in use. Nevertheless, these choices are as good as any, and a fair reflection of the different types of infantry weapons in use today.
- This figure holds a Z-15 rifle, and has what we think is a form of RPG slung over his shoulder.
- This weapon looks like an M249 light machine gun (although it could also be one of several other reasonable candidates), which he is firing from the shoulder. He also has a submachine gun slung over his shoulder, and a pistol holstered on his right thigh.
- The seated figure is easy to identify – he holds an NLAW infantry missile system, which so far has been donated by the UK and Luxembourg.
- Finally we have someone who does not seem to be part of the regular Ukrainian Army, but presumably is part of the militia raised by Ukraine when it was attacked. This figure is in the act of throwing a Molotov Cocktail, and has a shotgun slung across his back, probably civilian owned.
Comments on uniform are much more straight-forward, as all soldiers today wear more or less the same uniform, varying only in small details and pattern of camouflage. All here look fine to us, and include some men wearing hooded coats, while most wear knee and elbow protectors. All the military men have trousers with pockets above both knees, but no evidence of pockets on the lower leg. As with weapons, large quantities of clothing and kit have been donated to Ukraine, so again many styles can be seen in action. More than one type of helmet is visible here, but all look authentic and well done, and we particularly liked the soldier with the night vision apparatus. The militia fighter may well have partial or completely civilian clothing, since there was neither the time nor the resources to fully uniform such men. The man lying on the ground has a baseball cap rather than a helmet, which might suggest civilian, police or special forces, but since he also has what may be a baton by his side, we are going to guess he is police. The men have a variety of items of kit, including various pouches and packs, and several have body armour, including the standard Ukrainian model first issued in 2021. Everything here looks authentic and well-chosen.
The standard of sculpting in this set is very good – up with the best that Mars can make these days. We were particularly impressed by the nice and active poses, without any of the straight-backed postures seen in some sets. The sculptor has provided some really good poses, and has not been afraid to tackle some ambitious choices such as the policeman with pistol and the man firing the NLAW, all of which have been successfully achieved without the need for any separate parts. The finer detail such as on weaponry and body armour is very crisp and clear, and there is not a lot of flash either, so these are nice figures that seem to depict their subject material very well. One common feature of Mars sets is that the numbers of each poses can vary, perhaps as a result of problems with filling the mould, so our numbers above should be treated as a guide rather than necessarily true in all cases.
Producing figures for a current conflict will always risk being seen as a comment on that conflict, and of course this set is no exception. The desire to make figures to show the defenders of Ukraine is understandable, and with this one Mars have managed to produce a very good product. As always, just the eight poses hardly do justice to the vast array of weaponry etc., but as they stand this is a very worthy collection of very modern soldiers.