The sniper and his spotter were packing up their gear, while the bullet was still travelling toward its target.
The shot by Ukrainian sniper Vyacheslav Kovalskiy, spanning 12,468 feet, covered a distance greater than that of two Brooklyn Bridges in approximately 9 seconds, according to the Wall Street Journal.
It would kill a Russian soldier from a record 3.8 kilometres (around 2.3 miles), allegedly breaking a record held by a Canadian JTF2 special forces sniper who shot at a distance of 3.54 kilometres in Iraq in 2017.
"I was thinking that Russians would now know that is what Ukrainians are capable of," he told The Wall Street Journal in his first media interview.
"Let them sit at home and be afraid."
The sniper and his "spotter" initially observed Russian soldiers cutting wood but considered them too low-ranking to shoot, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Moments later, he noticed a group of other soldiers and one of them was an officer giving orders.
After a test shot, they figured that they had gotten the wind speed wrong. The sniper reset, reloaded and fired his bullet — half a foot long at 6.2 inches — at a speed of 960 mph, the report said.
The footage which went viral earlier showed one of the Russian soldiers dropping to the ground after the Ukrainian sniper took the long-distance shot.
However, some in the sharpshooting community remain skeptical.
It does not help his story, that he is a 58-year-old ex-businessman.
"For conventional sniping, there are so many variables that are hard to quantify, so the reality is anything over about 1,300 meters (about 4,265 feet) can be more luck than skill," said Steve Walsh, a former US Marines sniper instructor.
Factors that must be taken into account include gravity, wind speed and direction, altitude, barometric pressure, humidity and even the Coriolis Effect.
It is a very complicated mission. No room for amateurs or weekend warriors, which this fellow is.
In other words, sniping is weaponized math.
Is it just Ukraine bragging? Propaganda to be used against the Russians? Most media outlets, if not all, are saying the shot is being “claimed.”
Perhaps not. The vetting to become a sniper in Ukraine is considerable.
The Ukrainian army central command, forced to mobilize military capacity wherever it could be found, recruited particularly proficient shooters to create a sniper corps, putting them through about two months of tests, the Kyiv Post reported.
That includes classes (including lie detectors, camouflage, physical fitness, vehicle identification, communications systems, hand-to-hand combat and first aid,) +and eventually assigning them to sniper “platoons” controlled by AFU’s special forces command.
“Sort of, it was like being cast as an actor for a film,” one sniper told the Kyiv Post. “They were really picky about what they wanted.”
“They (the AFU) vetted us for everything, they even gave us lie detector tests,” he said. “But the funny thing was, they never checked how well we could shoot… I guess they trusted us on that.”
The movie-famous ghillie suit, a full-body outfit with ropes and faux foliage hanging off it is rarely used in the AFU, interviewees said. Ghillie suits are heavy and commonly an AFU sniper must cross kilometres of varying terrain to get to a good shooting position.
Next, if the shot is taken, the sniper must be ready — the Russians won’t wait to figure out where exactly it came from, but they will plaster the general area with an automatic grenade launcher or mortars, as fast as they can, the Kyiv Post reported.
According to ArmyRecognition.com, Kovalskiy was using the Horizon's Lord rifle chambered in 12.7×114mm HL for the November, 2023 shot.
Unveiled in 2021, the Horizon's Lord sniper rifle, developed by the Ukrainian MAYAK arms plant, features a single-shot bolt-action design and employs a novel cartridge, the 12.7x114HL (the abbreviation HL is assumed to represent Horizon’s Lord), derived by necking down the 14.5x114mm case.
This design choice aims to provide the rifle with an extended effective range and improved trajectory compared to rifles chambered in .50 BMG.
But there is another factor, that the media has ignored, and, it happened this week with the unveiling of the Teledyne Technologies Inc., long-range cooled thermal sniper sight, the ThermoSight HISS-HD, at the annual SHOT Show in Las Vegas.
The lightweight, high-performance thermal weapon sight allows precision shooters to detect, identify and engage targets more than 2,200 metres away with unparalleled accuracy, the company release said.
In other words … with this new high-tech stuff, the two kilometre kill shot appears to have become the norm.
“The new ThermoSight HISS-HD is the unmatched choice for precision shooters looking for a versatile, lightweight thermal sight that increases their range and accuracy,” said Rob Tarantino, vice-president of Surveillance Strategy and Development at Teledyne FLIR Defense.
“With HISS-HD, we’ve leveraged our world-class thermal imaging technology to provide marksmen with a superior tool to identify and engage targets anywhere, in any environment.”
HISS-HD can interface with various day scopes and weapon platforms, offering long-range optics and a high-definition display that delivers exceptionally clear imagery for snipers and machine gun crews, an increase in engagement range of more than 25% compared to previous models.
Experts say this unique combination of stand-off range and long-range target engagement empowers shooters with unrivalled overmatch capability in any operational scenario.
Service in the AFU as a sniper in the Russo-Ukrainian War is probably one of the most dangerous military professions in the world today, the Kyiv Post reported.
In an average sniper unit, over a year of fighting, about nine of ten will get hit by shrapnel or shell fragments, and one of two may be killed or badly injured.
Still, it's better to be on that side the rifle, than the other side.