How Radios Are Being Used By Everyday People in the Ukraine-Russia Conflict

(Psst: The FTC wants me to remind you that this website contains affiliate links. That means if you make a purchase from a link you click on, I might receive a small commission. This does not increase the price you'll pay for that item nor does it decrease the awesomeness of the item. ~ Daisy)

By the author of The Faithful Prepper and Zombie Choices.

We’ve been seeing some rather startling “radio news” in Europe of late that I felt would be of interest to the modern prepper. Communications are absolutely vital in a disaster situation, and I think that many of these stories help to illustrate that as well as other risks.

RTL-SDR software-defined radios are risky business in Ukraine.

I find myself popping into rather frequently. It’s a fantastic resource for anybody that is interested in what is currently going on, from a boots-on-the-ground approach to shortwave radio (and other types of radio).

In particular, HF Underground is an excellent place to find the latest information on clandestine stations and pirate radio. Shortly before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it was there that I found an alert for Ukrainian users of the RTL-SDR software-defined radio system.

For those that don’t know, an RTL-SDR is a $30 little USB radio that plugs into a laptop and permits you to listen to overseas broadcasts, track airplanes, trains, and ships, listen to Chris Stapleton, and do a host of other really cool radio things. Most airplanes will transmit their locations in the clear, and at least within the United States, it’s perfectly legal to follow airplanes’ positions.

There are actually a number of apps out there that you can put onto your phone to do this.

The alert warned Ukrainian RTL-SDR hobbyists of being found with the device on their person. The reason for this was because of the arrest of Stanislav Stetsneko, a Crimean citizen. Stetsneko used an RTL-SDR as a plane spotter hobbyist but was arrested in 2021 by the Russian Federal Security Service under allegations that he was a spy.

He disappeared for some time, and it is currently rumored that he’s sitting in a prison in Moscow with a sentence of 25 years.

Personally, I’m looking at this thing and only thinking it is going to spread. If I lived anywhere near Ukraine – particularly in Romania, Poland, or Moldova – I would figure out a way to make my RTL-SDR disappear pronto if needed.

RTL-SDRs are incredibly hard to find right now.

Speaking of the RTL-SDR, these little radio dongles have been available on Amazon for years. They’re apparently out of stock now. I can’t find anything but counterfeits out there right now. According to the company, this is due to supply chain problems in China.

The Buzzer

Have you ever heard of number stations? These are clandestine stations that constantly produce a list of numbers without any apparent order to them. They’re Cold War-style stations that produce instructions for spies throughout the world.

One of the most bizarre of these stations is UVB-76, otherwise known as “The Buzzer.” This station originates from deep within the heart of Russia and has been live 24/7 since 1973 (that we know of). It’s about two seconds of buzzing followed by a loud foghorn alarm sound. This goes on repeat non-stop.

Occasionally a female Russian voice comes on The Buzzer and gives a list of random numbers.

Why is this worth talking about today?

Because there’s a widespread theory that The Buzzer is a Russian dead hand device for nuclear war. In the event that The Buzzer were to go offline, that means that Russian nuclear weapons will be launched automatically. (Which probably means you’ll have wished you read this book.)

Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know. The Buzzer has come off the air a number of times, and we’ve never had a problem.

What I think is concerning here, though, is that it looks like the Ukrainians tried to jam The Buzzer in January, and there are other people now who are actively trying to jam the Buzzer with anti-war messages, Ronald Reagan speeches, and more, under the belief that it is sharing information with the Russian military. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know, but personally, I find this rather alarming and potentially short-sighted.

On March 10, the Buzzer changed briefly, and air raid sirens could be heard playing on the frequency. You can hear a recording of that below.

For what it’s worth, though, this very much could have been a “radio hacker’s” attempt at jamming the signal. You can hear 80’s pop having been played on The Buzzer’s frequency early last month as well. Hack? Who knows.

Ukrainian signals are being jammed.

This really shouldn’t come as any surprise. The Organic Prepper pointed out quite some time ago that Russian electronic warfare vehicles were being put into position prior to the invasion. What’s interesting is to see shortwave radio hobbyists picking up on what frequencies are being jammed and what are not.

For example, right now, we’re seeing a lot of 6005.0, the Ukrainian Radio station, being jammed. It’s been postulated this is in retaliation for “the jamming of the Kall station,” but A) I have no idea what the Kall station is (and can’t find anything about it), and B) I’m more inclined to say that this is just how war goes – you shut down your enemy’s comms.

(Make sure you check out our free QUICKSTART Guide to what to eat when the power goes out. Comms and electricity go hand in hand.)

Russian forces are using Baofeng radios.

This is rather surprising. There are images surfacing of Russian troops using both the UV-5R and the UV-82HP. The bulk of the mainstream media is using this as proof that the Russian forces are being sent in without adequate equipment for comms, but if you search around on the internet long enough, you can find pictures of Ukrainian soldiers from 2014 carrying the exact same gear.

The important thing to note here, I think, is that a $25 Chinese handheld radio that you can pick up on Amazon is most certainly not what anyone was expecting to see being used by conventional military forces. The UV-5R isn’t even encrypted. Everything you say over it is in the clear.

(If you’re going to buy more UV-5R radios for your preps, do so from this link so that you help keep The Organic Prepper going.)

Really, this means that if you currently live in Romania, Moldova, Poland, or any other nation that (I believe) faces a high potential of Russian invasion in the very near future, then you could pick up Russian military signals with nothing more than a Uniden BC125AT. You’d be able to not only hear where Russian forces were, but if you had a directional antenna, you’d be able to tell what direction they were coming from as well.

And if you had three guys with radios and directional antennas, then you could triangulate their position with a good degree of accuracy.

Radios are a powerful tool during a time of disaster.

Communications ability is absolutely vital to making wise decisions in a collapse environment. Unfortunately, learning how to use radio equipment can be incredibly challenging if you’re just getting into it and don’t have an electrical engineer’s brain.

If you’re more cartoon-minded than you are engineer-minded, then may want to check out my latest book The Prepper’s Guide to Post-Disaster Communications. In this book, you’ll learn a good range of information on what you need to know radio-wise in a WROL/post-disaster world. I cover some of the basics of how radio waves function, how to triangulate a signal, how to use radio for a secret church, and more.

It’s available now through The Organic Prepper’s storefront

What are your thoughts on current radio news? Do you have more to share? Let us know in the comments below.

About Aden

Aden Tate is a regular contributor to and Aden runs a micro-farm where he raises dairy goats, a pig, honeybees, meat chickens, laying chickens, tomatoes, mushrooms, and greens. Aden has two published books, The Faithful Prepper and Zombie Choices. You can find his podcast The Last American on Preppers’ Broadcasting Network.

Aden Tate

Aden Tate

Leave a Reply

  • I suspect that the reasons for using the Baofeng radio’s is utility. I suspect the general population in Europe has less Ham operators. So the frequencies are mostly clear.
    The radios also use less wattage, so there is less cross talk or interference. Many European countries are small by American standards, so signal interference is a big deal.
    Plus NATO would tend to try to jam the main military frequencies, but by using these, the local units could still communicate locally.

    Adaptability is an important part of prepping. These or other radios are a good start towards having communication with others in a SHTF scenario.
    Knowing the Urban Search and Rescue Markings, and Hobo or other marking codes would be a good addition to any preppers knowledge base.
    You might need to make up some of your own, like to mark an area where snipers or other unfriendly units are operating. So some markers, chalk or spray paint might be a good addition to your preps.

    Don’t put your communication plan in a box or count anything as to lowly or as unworthy of consideration.

  • The Baofeng UV5R is the cheapest and easiest complete VHF/UHF receiver on the market. You likely hit what the Russians are using it for in the same graph — the Ukrainians are using it. Listening is more important than transmitting, and the Russians are likely using it to listen to open comms by the Ukranians.

  • Hey, your amazon link is sold out. Also, not all UV-5R’s are the same, and the one you linked to only covered 420-450, you can buy the same model that covers 400-520, much better frequency range.

  • Aden, many years ago I worked on Minuteman missile systems (the ones in the silos in several Northern States). The original launch system had a tone that went over secure cable to each missile site, and in the event that bombs started dropping, the tone would cease for various reasons. The missile system would wait for some time for the tone to be re-established, if it didn’t the missile would launch.
    This proved to be a Really Bad Idea, us maintenance guys would scramble out to the affected site(s) to get the tone going again – which was kinda dangerous if you really think about it.
    So, years later, they put in a POSITIVE system that the missile had to be *commanded* to launch – I will not go into details.
    The Russians either copied our idea for the “loss of tone” signal, or thought of it themselves. We got wind of it, and deliberately “leaked” some (slightly) classified details of our better system, which the Russians them copied because they recognized that the system they started with had some real serious flaws!
    So, the radio station The Buzzer is NOT a “keep-alive” type of system becasue it can be jammed, but is most likely (I’m doing a SWAG here!) something like a key code that keeps changing.
    Who Knows!

  • I picked up an SDR a year or so ago, still working on getting it set up on Linux, as much as I hate Windows I may have to give that a shot.

    I’ve bought some GMRS/FRS radios over the years since they are handy. I picked up a Garmin with GPS from a thrift store, a nice 2 for 1 while GPS works.

    I have to move CBs around, I try to keep CBs in the daily drivers even though it’s not really used by truckers in the area. I’ve picked up a couple of hand helds at thrift stores, they’re easy to hand to people and easy for them to figure out. If you’re convoying to the BOL it helps keep people informed of any changes.

    I’ve also been given a few CBs over the years. I know some work and there are some I have to test. Even if they only receive they can be useful for monitoring.

    I have a couple of radios capable of ham bands.

    Thrift stores have been good to me when it comes to non-digital scanners, and I’ve picked up a few. Listening to radio chatter is a good way to collect intel. I round out the listening with three or four small shortwave radios.

    The CBs are great for neighbors and barter. You can hand them out so that neighbors that are beyond shouting distance can stay in communication and as part of a mutual aid group.

    I’m not a radio person but I do recognize the importance of radios, communications and information gathering.

  • The Baofeng radios, in order to use them legally here in the States, one needs at least a tech HAM licence.

    A legal option that doesn’t require a licence, is to go CB radio. Though they are very weak (only 4 watts) with a range limited to a few miles, that is more than enough for most tactical communications (the Baofeng usually can’t reach further, unless going through repeaters). CB can also be a very inexpensive option.


    • Ehhh…sorry, but you´re just a troll. What you say is NOT true. Putin has been ruling for too many years now. Russia wants to reinstate the Soviet to their former glory, that is evident. They will do everything they can to control Europe, as they have been trying to do for the last 50 years.

  • Dear Aden, Westerns doesn´t seem to understand the real threat Russia is for the freedom in this world. This being said, I can testify that, if some sort of internal resistance arose in my country, instead of using cellphones, which allowed finally to pinpoint Oscar Perez and his team so commies could blew them up with an RPG in a civilian subdivision, things could have been different for them.

    • Don’t know what “Westerns” you are speaking of, but as an American I understand full well where the real threat to freedom is… Washington, D.C. As for Russia, the neocons/Deep State are perfectly willing to fight their proxy war with Russia to the last drop of Ukrainian blood. Lots of $$$ being made by the MIC and politicians in ‘the loop’ suppling all those weapons. Happy days are here again!

  • I have 4 super cheap radios and 2 ok quality Bofang ham hand helds. Local ham club has a great repeater. They talk around the world. I recently downloaded the study materials to get my tech radio license. As a 76 year old newby it looks and sounds a bit intimidating but so far the study materials seem straight forward and easy enough. The cheapest radios were gifts to use as walkie talkies in a local area. I bought the Bofang set to learn with. Good enough to use until I’m more confident after I get my license. Not a big investment to start out. I used to enjoy a CB in my vehicles and a home base station to talk with friends out beyond phone service on a reservation. Even the factory CB in my old late 70s car could reach 100 miles on a cloudy day. That sure beats 2 cans and a string.

  • You Need More Than Food to Survive

    In the event of a long-term disaster, there are non-food essentials that can be vital to your survival and well-being. Make certain you have these 50 non-food stockpile essentials. Sign up for your FREE report and get prepared.

    We respect your privacy.
    Malcare WordPress Security