The Ukrainian offensive begins at Považie in Slovakia

Plant in Dubnica is one of the last capable of producing Russian 152 mm projectiles.

The Zuzana howitzer.The Zuzana howitzer. (Source: SME - Jozef Jakubčo)

They can only get women to hand-build a lighter about the size of a pear from about fifty small parts, doing so in a quiet room with the precision of a watchmaker.

"They are not allowed to have a radio on, they don't even talk to each other. We tried to hire men as well, but it's probably too delicate a job to do for eight hours. I know I wouldn't have the patience," explains Štefan Škultéty.

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The director of the DMD Group arms holding company is not talking about producing devices for smokers, but the hard work of female employees whose "lighters" are mounted on the tips of 155-millimeter artillery ammunition: currently the scarcest military goods that needed by the defenders of Ukraine.

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"However, we cannot let you into the ammunition production hall, even without cameras," Škultéty tells daily SME reporters in Zone 1, the sole accessible one in the plant. Zones 2 and 3 with the ammunition production hall remain inaccessible. "We have even tighter security since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine," he says.

This year, every fifth 155-millimeter projectile fired by the Ukrainian army from howitzers such as Zuzana 2 from Slovakia, the Caesar from France, or the Krab system from Poland, will bear the inscription "1003M" on its body. The code indicates the Dubnica plant. "If you notice, it's on everything around you," says one guide, pointing to both the artillery and mortar ammunition in the room.

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While 2022 was the year Ukraine acquired hundreds of pieces of Western military equipment for its defenders to withstand the Russian invasion, 2023 may mark the expected turn in the war if the cannons have actually something to fire.

"Without artillery, it's quite likely that Ukraine will be defeated," Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov appealed to NATO countries in February.

The manufacturer based in Dubnica is one of 15 factories in the European Union from which the EU plans to purchase ammunition. In addition to ammunition, the DMD Group also profits from the production of military equipment, which goes not just to Ukraine, but also to the Slovak armed forces.

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