In Epic Battle of Tanks, Russia Was Routed, Repeating Earlier Mistakes - New York Times – 01.03.23
Updated: Mar 4
A three-week fight in the town of Vuhledar in southern Ukraine produced what Ukrainian officials say was the biggest tank battle of the war so far, and a stinging setback for the Russians reports Andrew E. Kramer.
KURAKHOVE, Ukraine — Before driving into battle in their mud-spattered war machine, a T-64 tank, the three-man Ukrainian crew performs a ritual.
The commander, Pvt. Dmytro Hrebenok, recites the Lord’s Prayer. Then, the men walk around the tank, patting its chunky green armor.
“We say, ‘Please, don’t let us down in battle,’” said Sgt. Artyom Knignitsky, the mechanic. “‘Bring us in and bring us out.’”
Their respect for their tank is understandable. Perhaps no weapon symbolizes the ferocious violence of war more than the main battle tank. Tanks have loomed over the conflict in Ukraine in recent months — militarily and diplomatically — as both sides prepared for offensives. Russia pulled reserves of tanks from Cold War-era storage, and Ukraine prodded Western governments to supply American Abrams and German Leopard 2 tanks.
The sophisticated Western tanks are expected on the battlefield in the next several months. The new Russian armor turned up earlier — and in its first wide-scale deployment was decimated.
A three-week battle on a plain near the coal-mining town of Vuhledar in southern Ukraine produced what Ukrainian officials say was the biggest tank battle of the war so far, and a stinging setback for the Russians.
In the extended battle, both sides sent tanks into the fray, rumbling over dirt roads and maneuvering around tree lines, with the Russians thrusting forward in columns and the Ukrainians maneuvering defensively, firing from a distance or from hiding places as Russian columns came into their sights.
When it was over, not only had Russia failed to capture Vuhledar, but it also had made the same mistake that cost Moscow hundreds of tanks earlier in the war: advancing columns into ambushes.
Blown up on mines, hit with artillery or obliterated by anti-tank missiles, the charred hulks of Russian armored vehicles now litter farm fields all about Vuhledar, according to Ukrainian military drone footage.
Ukraine’s military said Russia had lost at least 130 tanks and armored personnel carriers in the battle. That figure could not be independently verified. Ukraine does not disclose how many weapons it loses.
For the full article in pdf with more images, please click here:
Maria Varenikova contributed reporting.
Andrew E. Kramer is the Times bureau chief in Kyiv. He was part of a team that won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in International Reporting for a series on Russia’s covert projection of power. @AndrewKramerNYT
A version of this article appears in print on March 2, 2023, Section A, Page 10 of the New York edition with the headline: Russian Forces, Repeating Strategic Errors, Lose Epic Tank Battle. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe
The brigade’s tank crew storing their vehicle near the front line. Credit...Tyler Hicks/The New York Times