Ukraine Situation Report: Russian Armor Massacre At Avdiivka

A video has emerged showing a disastrous Russian assault on the Avdiivka front, which took place over the weekend, reportedly leaving 20 of the Kremlin’s armored vehicles destroyed. While we have seen other large-scale Russian armored assaults, various accounts suggest this might be the biggest of its kind of the conflict so far, spearheaded by a column of 48 Russian armored vehicles. While that claim is very hard to verify, the action nonetheless reflects the brutal nature of the warfare still raging around Avdiivka, which fell to Moscow’s forces back in mid-February.

Accounts of this assault state that it took place March 30 on a road near the village of Tonen’ke, west of Avdiivka. It is said to have been led by 36 Russian tanks and 12 BMP series infantry fighting vehicles, from the 90th Tank Division’s 6th Tank Regiment.

The footage that appeared on social media today was first published by the 25th Separate Airborne Brigade, “Sicheslav,” an airborne formation of the Ukrainian Air Assault Forces. This unit alone claims to have destroyed four tanks and two BMPs in repulsing the assault. In total, it’s claimed that 12 tanks and eight BMPs were put out of action.

In the caption for the video on its Facebook page, the 25th Brigade stated the following:

“Nothing is impossible for us! ‘Sicheslavsk’ paratroopers destroyed a column of enemy vehicles! Four occupiers’ tanks and two armored personnel carriers turned into scrap metal as a result of the paratroopers’ skillful work. No matter how many of you there are, no matter where you hide, we will find you and destroy you!”

As for the video, this shows some of the results of what happened when the Russian force advanced along the road leading from Tonen’ke — which is in Russian hands — toward the village of Uman’ske, two miles to the west, which is still held by Ukraine.

With the Russian column moving in line along the road, with little distance between the vehicles, they start to come under attack. It’s not immediately clear what weapons were used by the Ukrainians, but first-person-view (FPV) drones seem to have been involved.

As the Russian column falls into disarray, more vehicles fall victim to Ukrainian attacks, including some that seem to be targeted by anti-tank guided missiles or perhaps struck off-route mines, based on the shallow angle of the impacting projectile. It’s notable that some of the vehicles are fitted with extensive ‘cope cages’ to defend against aerial attack, especially by drones.

“Pure madness” was one description of the engagement, from Kriegsforscher on X, an apparent drone operator serving with a reconnaissance unit of the Ukrainian Marine Corps.

Not surprisingly, after an assault that seems to have come at the cost of more than a third of the armor involved, any Russian gains here seem to have been negligible. According to an assessment from the Ukrainian Center for Defense Strategies, one day after the assault, the fighting around Tonen’ke was positional, with neither side having made major gains.

As well as demonstrating that the area around Avdiivka is very much still being bitterly fought over, Saturday’s assault also points to Russia’s continuing efforts to refine its tactics in order to make meaningful breakthroughs along front lines that have mainly remained fairly static for some time now.

Earlier experience with similarly heavy losses during armored assaults had seen Russian forces increasingly launch smaller and more mobile attacks, involving troops on foot and also using lighter all-terrain vehicles. As we have seen in recent weeks, including in the video below, also on the Avdiivka front, these have also had only mixed success.

Another recent example of the Russian military using lighter all-terrain vehicles is seen here, namely paratroopers from the 106th Airborne Division transporting a medical team on the front line, while under Ukrainian fire, from both artillery/mortar fire and drones:

Now, the Center for Defense Strategies believes that Russia is turning back to heavier armored assaults, at least in the Avdiivka area, as evidenced by the events in Tonen’ke on Saturday.

Whatever comes next in terms of Russian tactics is unclear, but what is certain is that they are busily building extensive stockpiles of FPV drones, which have been proven to cause great havoc against various kinds of targets, whether troops in the open — as in the video below — or well-protected armored vehicles.

As for the static nature of much of the front lines, this is something that Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the head of Ukraine’s presidential office, alluded to in a post on X today.

“There is no positional war (no advancement, but the intensity of fighting is extremely high), no signs of ‘freezing.’ [Russia] has not solved its basic tasks (among which are the destruction of a sovereign state, seizure and legal fixation of foreign territories, filtration/deportation and killing of large groups of disloyal population) and therefore continues to escalate. [Russia] is throwing all its resources to the war.”

Podolyak continued: “A war of this type has only a military solution. So, once again: let’s have no illusions; it will not be possible to just sit and wait; it will still be necessary to dramatically expand military production and saturate Ukraine with a parity amount of weapons. The faster, the more effective and the better the situation will look…”

Before diving into more developments from the conflict in Ukraine, The War Zone readers can review our previous coverage here.

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In more FPV-related news, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has offered more details of current drone production plans. After what he described as “a nearly three-hour, highly specific meeting on drones with military and government officials,” Zelensky said that production plans for all types of drones this year have been revised. This includes FPV types, as well as “bombers, reconnaissance, and long-range drones for special missions.”

“We discussed how to ensure our defense industry’s flexibility,” Zelensky continued. “Frontline needs are constantly changing, and our manufacturers must respond in a timely manner. Important decisions were made to streamline procurement procedures and component imports, increase the production of charges for drones, and train operators.”

The Ukrainian leader also announced a plan to create “an integrated electronic warfare control system” designed to offer protection against Russian drones. Zelensky said the system is “already being tested in certain areas” with plans to introduce it across the entire front. No further details were provided, but the growing ‘drone gap’ between Ukraine and Russia has been a notable concern of officials in Kyiv for some time now, while the Ukrainians have also been making increasing efforts to use electronic warfare to counter enemy drones. One reported result of such measures is the downing of an Iranian-designed Shahed series one-way attack drone, seen in the video below.

In Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region, which is controlled by Russia, a car bomb reportedly killed a Moscow-appointed government official today. According to the local branch of Russia’s Investigative Committee, responsible for investigating major crimes, Valeriy Chaika, the deputy head of a state-run education agency was killed when “an unidentified device detonated in a car” in Starobilsk this afternoon, Agence France-Presse reported.

Russia launched an attack against the town of Vovchansk in Kharkiv Oblast on April 1, injuring a 27-year-old woman, Governor Oleh Syniehubov said. Russian forces carried out the attack at 1:20 p.m. local time, reportedly targeting residential buildings.

Reports emerged today that Russia has launched an attack against the town of Vovchansk in the Kharkiv region in northeastern Ukraine. According to local governor Oleh Syniehubov, a 27-year-old woman was injured when Russian forces carried out the attack at around 1:20 p.m. local time. Local authorities say that the Kremlin’s forces targeted residential buildings.

More from the Kharkiv region, which bore much of the brunt of Russian attacks against Ukraine’s energy infrastructure 10 days ago.

The region lost all its power after those strikes on the energy system and the Ukrainian energy company Centrenergo has now confirmed that the Zmiiv thermal power plant, one of the largest in the region, was completely destroyed.

As of now, around 120,000 people in the region are still affected by power cuts, with blackout periods introduced to conserve energy usage.

Igor Terekhov, the mayor of the city of Kharkiv, said it will take weeks to restore full supply, an aspiration that could be set back should Russia launch more strikes against the region.

“The damage is very serious,” Terekhov told the BBC. “We need time to repair it.”

Ukrainian officials say that, so far this year, Russia has launched at least 180 weapons of various types, including missiles and drones, at the Ukrainian capital. Most notably, the city’s military administration claims that five 3M22 Zircon hypersonic cruise missiles have been used in those attacks.

Accounts from Ukraine on March 25 claimed that their air defenses successfully downed two Zircon missiles launched against Kyiv.

While the still-mysterious missile is said to have been used operationally against Ukraine in the past, it wasn’t until late last month that Ukrainian sources claimed that it was intercepted. With a supposed speed of up to Mach 9, based on Russian accounts, the Zircon should — in theory — be immune to interception using currently available surface-to-air missile capabilities deployed to Ukraine, although small windows of opportunity could exist where successful intercepts may be possible.

A line drawing of a supposed 3M22 Zircon missile provided by the Kyiv Scientific-Research Institute for Forensic Examinations, based on alleged Zircon fragments from the February 7 attack. via X
via X

France is set to provide a boost to Ukrainian air defenses, and its military more generally, with the decision to provide additional Aster 30 surface-to-air missiles as well as “hundreds” of secondhand armored vehicles from its own stocks. The French defense minister, Sebastien Lecornu, confirmed the transfers to a French newspaper, after French President Emmanuel Macron requested that he prepare a new aid package for Kyiv.

A year ago, France and Italy jointly announced that they would provide Ukraine with a SAMP/T air defense system, which is armed with Aster 30 missiles. The system provides somewhat similar capabilities to the U.S.-made Patriot. While the previous SAMP/T delivery comprised a battery cobbled together from existing French and Italian stocks, the new delivery appears to involve new-build Aster 30 missiles, although the configuration of the full system is unclear at this stage. Some accounts seem to suggest that the additional missiles will simply backfill stocks for the existing battery.

Italy has promised Ukraine a SAMP/T air defense system, according to the RID Italian news agency. MBDA Missile Systems photo

While Ukraine still faces attacks on its energy infrastructure, Kyiv’s forces are also hitting back at Russia, with a concerted campaign directed primarily against its oil refineries.

The result of these attacks, according to a Reuters report, is a significant spike in the cost of crude oil.

Speaking last Friday, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said that the country’s oil companies would now focus on reducing output rather than exports, so as to better spread production cuts with other OPEC+ members.

As a result of the Ukrainian long-range drone attacks, almost one million barrels a day of Russian crude processing capacity is offline.

We have reported many times on Russian tactical aircraft losses, but the Kremlin is also facing other difficulties as it seeks to maintain the capabilities of its Aerospace Forces, or VKS.

A recent report suggests that Russia is now bringing stored An-124 Condor heavy lift transports out of long-term storage, with the plan to overhaul them and return them to service. The An-124 was developed by the Ukrainian Antonov design bureau and built by two factories: Antonov in Kyiv and Aviastar-SP in Ulyanovsk, Russia.

Around a dozen An-124s are in active VKS service. However, plans to resume production in Russia were derailed by the conflict in Ukraine, specifically the fact that the current D-18T engine is manufactured only by Motor Sich in Ukraine. Bringing older airframes out of storage would seem to be the only realistic solution at the moment to address an airlift shortfall, with the An-124 in particular offering unique outsize-load-carrying capabilities, including moving complete air defense systems, for example.

The VKS is, meanwhile, rapidly introducing additional air-launched weapons to the conflict in Ukraine.

One recently reported example is the ODAB-1500, a free-fall bomb in which the designation denotes Obyomno-Detoniruyushchaya Aviatsionnaya Bomba, or fuel-air explosive aerial bomb. While smaller ODAB series weapons have been used previously in the conflict, the larger ODAB-1500 has apparently not been identified in use until now. It has a nominal weight of 1,500 kilograms or 3,307 pounds.

It can be used to defeat soft-skinned materiel and manpower, as well as for clearing minefields.

The diminutive U.S.-designed M67 grenade continues to have an impact on the battlefield that is entirely at odds with its size and weight. Delivered by a hovering drone, the M67’s latest victim, or at least one of them, was a very modern T-90M tank.

The  T-90M — also known as the Proryv-3 (Breakthrough-3) — is the most technologically advanced and capable main battle tank to have been used by Russia in Ukraine. The next-generation T-14 Armata is available only in very modest numbers. So far, it has not appeared in the war in Ukraine.

Among the unceasing supply of videos showing the devastating effects of FPV drones is this recent example, in which four Russian soldiers are successfully targeted at night. Their demise is caught by the infrared optics of another drone maintaining overwatch of the situation.

Another night-time engagement involving Ukrainian FPV drones shows an even more lethal engagement, in which a whole squad was apparently wiped out after they tried to take cover close to a vehicle. The glow of the still-hot engine very quickly brought attention to their hiding place.

The provenance of the next video is not entirely clear, with some suggestions it shows a Russian Mi-24 Hind assault helicopter. Most sources, however, state that it shows a Ukrainian Hind, apparently coming under attack — or at least close observation — from a Russian drone. Exactly what is happening in the video cannot be confirmed and it remains possible that the drone was simply in the vicinity or was actually operated by friendly forces. Regardless, the possibility of even a small drone like this being able to do damage to a helicopter is very real, especially against a low-flying and fast-moving target.

From drone versus helicopter to drone versus drone. The next video, reportedly from somewhere in the Avdiivka area, shows a pair of Russian uncrewed ground vehicles (UGVs) being destroyed by Ukrainian drones that attack from the air. The light UGVs are notable for their armament, being equipped with AGS-17 automatic grenade launchers.

The drone in the next video remains something of a mystery, not least because of the unusual maneuvers it makes shortly before impact, which results in an unusually large detonation. While the drone has a similar appearance to the widely used Lancet loitering munition, it seems to be different, not least with reference to the warhead and the terminal maneuvers it makes. This ‘jinking’ may be the result of a targeting algorithm designed to make the drone better able to defeat potential kinetic countermeasures.

Among the lesser-known Ukrainian combat units is Omega, consisting of combat frogmen that are part of the Special Operations Forces (SOF). Some of its operators are seen below during night-time training, equipped with swim fins and rebreathers.

The Omega group is part of the National Guard of Ukraine and while it was set up primarily to conduct counterterrorism and bodyguard missions, it has since gained plenty of combat experience. Its operations are now recognized as specialists in ambushes, raids, and reconnaissance missions, including behind enemy lines in the Kharkiv and Donetsk regions.

It’s been a while since we have concluded a Situation Report with an account of some of Ukraine’s wildlife and how it’s been affected by the conflict.

A recent video from the Ukrainian 92nd Assault Brigade shows soldiers rescuing some of the wild animals who have lost their homes and their parents in the war, as well as rescuing wildlife from traps, and stroking wild deer.

One Ukrainian soldier is shown caring for two young wild boar rescued from forests in the Kharkiv region after their mother and three baby siblings were killed. The boarlets have been named Tisha and Tosha and have now been trained to lie down on command.

Another soldier, callsign Sladkii, is shown caring for a marbled polecat — classified as a vulnerable species in the IUCN Red List. The polecat has been named Soledar and has been trained to hide in the soldier’s pouch when in danger. 

Also shown is a wild raccoon, named Slavko, which is seen washing its favorite toy. Animals have accompanied soldiers throughout history and the critters tended to by today’s Ukrainian military clearly play an important morale-boosting role.

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Thomas Newdick Avatar

Thomas Newdick

Staff Writer

Thomas is a defense writer and editor with over 20 years of experience covering military aerospace topics and conflicts. He’s written a number of books, edited many more, and has contributed to many of the world’s leading aviation publications. Before joining The War Zone in 2020, he was the editor of AirForces Monthly.