Ukraine Situation Report: Armored Personnel Carriers Make A Charge In Bakhmut

Video shows dated donated Ukranian armored personnel carriers making an all out charge at Russian positions in the hellscape that is Bakhmut.

byStetson Payne|
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The rumble of tracked vehicles and the crackle of heavy machine guns, all instruments in the deadly orchestra of mechanized warfare in Eastern Ukraine.

Intriguing video from a Ukrainian unit shows M113s and Dutch-supplied YPR-765s (which is based on the M113) in a reported assault on Wagner PMC positions, the battlefield's horizon only a dismal, splintered hellscape behind the APCs. The video has very strong WWI vibes.

The company-sized unit’s vehicles advance and reverse in sequence, careful to not sit idle in the face of enemy fire while troops hug the dirt around them. 

On the war’s first anniversary, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told CNN that the U.S. is “training and equipping several brigades of mechanized infantry” capable of breaching the Russian defenses along an increasingly static frontline. While the combination of those new brigades and their advanced equipment have not reached the battlefield yet, the combat seen in the video above is just a taste of what Ukraine wants to bring to bear against the Russians.

However, it will take more than just advanced armored vehicles to break Russian lines. As shown in combat throughout the last year of the war, armored vehicles are noisy death traps without requisite support from infantry and other units. 

Reports of a failed Ukrainian attack on March 15 near the town of Novodanylivka in Zaporizhzhia Oblast are a brutal example of just that. Video shows several burning armored vehicles in open terrain in the aftermath, with Russian accounts claiming to have repulsed the assault. 

Regardless, even as a relapse of 100-year-old trench warfare tactics occurs in the mud of Eastern Ukraine, the much-rumored offensive and planned liberation of Russian-occupied Crimea will depend, in part, on the promised fleet of advanced western armored fighting vehicles headed to Ukrainian units.

At least for now, we see just how much the aging M113s and their YPR-765 cousins, hardly 'tip of the spear' combat vehicles compared to their more modern successors, are in the fight. It's remarkable and terrifying to see. Ukraine is clearly making do with the best armor it has on hand, even if it is far from ideal.

Before we head into the latest news from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can get caught up on our previous rolling coverage here.

The Latest

Putin ventured to Crimea today on the 9th anniversary of Russia's declaration that it has seized the peninsula from Ukraine. Just yesterday, the International Criminal Court filed war crimes charges against him. As you can see in the video, the optics were such that he was presented as driving himself around. It was his first visit to Crimea since Russia began its all-out invasion of Ukraine over a year ago. Russian press said Putin visited an art school and children's center while in Sevastopol, which is also home to the Black Sea Fleet.

Saturday’s intelligence update from the British Ministry of Defense assessed Russia will soon adjust its conscription requirements to account for continued losses. The report noted a proposed change through the Russian Duma (legislature) to change the conscription age bracket from men aged 18-27 to men aged 21-30. The update assessed the law as "likely to pass" and come into effect in January 2024.

Russian conscription is separate from the “partial mobilization” it undertook in September following Ukraine’s successful counteroffensive in the Kharkiv region. While technically barred from service in Ukraine, the update notes "several hundreds have probably served through administrative mixups or after being coerced to sign contracts."

Most of the men aged 18-21 currently claim exemptions for higher education, but the changed bracket would bolster troop numbers and ensure they are forced to serve. More conscripts would consequently free up more professional soldiers for service in Ukraine with the draftees backfilling their posts away from the frontlines.

As fighting in the Donbas rages into another week, there are concerns about a new attempted encirclement in a Ukrainian town on the frontlines for nearly a decade. Fifty kilometers south of the razor’s edge battle for Bakhmut, Russian forces have reportedly refocused efforts on the city of Avdiivka, located only a few miles north of Donetsk proper and its airport’s fortified ruins

Having endured nearby fighting since the War in the Donbas began in 2014, there are fears that the wide-open terrain west of the town could be vulnerable to a breakout and rapid encirclement. As Emil Kastehelmi (@emilkastehelmi) explains in this thread, Avdiivka could soon become a southern counterpart to Bakhmut’s siege.

Fighting has increased in the area in recent days, notably to the north of the city near the town of Krasnohorivka. Russian air strikes targeted Avidiivka on March 17, causing the partial collapse of a residential highrise. Infrared video also captured subsequent airstrikes on Ukrainian positions in the area. 

Adding to evidence of Russian efforts on the city, a recent video purportedly of mobilized Russians from St. Petersburg claims 70 percent casualties in a poorly equipped attack in the sector. 

As Kastehelmi notes, Russia need not fully encircle the town to make its continued defense a losing battle for Ukraine. Much like the western approaches to Bakhmut, the roads Ukrainian troops rely on for reinforcement or escape are woefully out in the open and could be vulnerable to attacks on the flanks.

Given the staggering costs of casualties and equipment on both sides in Bakhmut, a second assault of similar magnitude would only add to concerns about Ukrainian attrition before its looming counteroffensive. 

Elsewhere in Donbas, other videos show a Ukrainian soldier briefly breaking cover to fire an RPG-7 at Russian positions and a drone’s-eye view of a failed Wagner PMC assault in the fog and gloom of Bakhmut’s battlefields.

Ukrainian anti-aircraft teams equipped with man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) reportedly got a hit on a Russian Su-25 “Frogfoot” attack aircraft in the region.

Further south, Russia continues to fortify occupied Crimea in anticipation of Ukrainian attacks. A passerby took video of construction underway on the west side of the isthmus, south of the town of Ishun. 

Russia isn’t just building new fortifications, though. On the Azov Sea coastline, satellite imagery shows Russian forces at the Arabat Fortress on the Arabat Spit’s southern end. Built by Ottoman forces in the 17th Century, it saw fighting in the Crimean War of 1853-1856, the Russian Civil War, and the Second World War. 

More recently, Russian forces have occupied the fort since annexing Crimea in 2014. Satellite imagery shows trench lines and fighting positions around the fortress once again preparing for war.

Picturesque video captures snowy, low-light M142 HIMARS launches as the guided rockets’ smoke trails streak through rays of sunlight.

Another Ukrainian rocket launcher did not fare so well, with video showing a Czech-supplied RM-70 122mm MLRS destroyed in a massive explosion after a Russian ZALA Lancet loitering munition strike. The huge blast strongly suggests the launcher was loaded.

Keeping with Czech-supplied weaponry, a clip shows a DSS PZD 556 light machine gun being test-fired by Ukraine’s Ikherian OBON Separate Special Purpose Battalion. Chambered in NATO 5.56 x 45mm, it appears similar to FN Herstal’s venerable Minimi and its American M249 SAW cousin.

Alongside the Leopard 2 tanks sent earlier this year, Canada has started shipping the Bergepanzer 3 armored recovery vehicles to Ukraine. A video from the Canadian Department of National Defense shows one of the plow and crane-equipped behemoths based on the Leopard 2 driving up into an Antonov An-124.

Lastly, Ukrainian troops have put a rather well-armed robot to use, known as the “Shahid.” In a video posted Saturday, Ukrainian troops use an overhead drone and a four-wheeled robot to attack a Russian position.

Carrying a MON-90 anti-personnel mine and 12 kilograms of TNT, the robot packs quite the punch when its payload goes off. Video from the drone overhead shows the resulting explosion as another soldier drives the robot from cover.

That’s it for now. We’ll update this story when there’s more news to report. 

Contact the author: stetson.payne@thewarzone.com

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