As Ukraine continues to eye an offensive, more of the internationally promised armor that will help make that happen has arrived in the country, according to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry.
Ukraine has received at least some of the 90 Stryker armored personnel carriers and 37 Cougar Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Vehicles promised by the U.S., as well as at least some of the 14 Challenger 2 tanks promised by the U.K. and the 40 Marder infantry fighting vehicles promised by Germany, which has also sent Ukraine 18 Leopard 2 tanks.
“Today, together with the commander of the Assault Troops of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Maxim 'Mike' Myrhorodsky, and our paratroopers, I had the honor of running a new addition to our armored units. Challengers from Britain, Strykers & Cougars from the USA and Marders from Germany,” Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov said Monday, according to the Telegram channel of the Ukrainian MoD.
“Even a year ago, no one could have thought that the support of partners would be so powerful. That the entire civilized world will reboot and eventually resist the bloody aggressor, the terrorist country of the Russian Federation."
It is unclear how many Strykers, Cougars and Challenger 2 tanks Ukraine has received. The Pentagon declined to provide details on the Strykers. We've reached out to the U.K. Defense Ministry for answers about the Challengers, which will now be the best tanks in Ukraine's inventory, and will update this story with any information provided.
But 18 Leopard 2A6 tanks have already arrived from Germany, according to German officials.
So have three Leopard 2A6 tanks from Portugal, according to its Defense Ministry, which announced the arrivals Monday in a Tweet.
Germany has also delivered the 40 Marders, according to a report Monday by Der Spiegel.
An extensive package of associated weapons and spare parts was delivered, as well, Der Spiegel reported. In the past two months, Ukrainian soldiers and technicians have been trained in Germany on the Leopard and the Marder.
The German and Portuguese Leopard 2s join 14 such tanks already delivered to Ukraine by Poland earlier this month. They were part of the first tranche of 150 Leopard 2 tanks promised to Ukraine by NATO member nations and allies like Sweden.
Combined, the German, Portuguese, and Polish donated Leopard 2 tanks provide enough armor to make up slightly more than one Ukrainian tank battalion, which consists of 31 tanks.
More Leopard 2 variants are just across the border in Poland.
“Four were announced on January 26, and have been delivered to Poland,” the Canadian Defense Ministry told The War Zone Monday. “There’s no specific timeline at this time for their movement to Ukraine. Another four, as well as one Leopard 2 Armoured Recovery Vehicle, were announced on February 24 and are making their way to Ukraine.”
With multiple countries donating or potentially donating Leopard 2s, the type is set to become the backbone of Ukraine's modernized tank force.
While it is unclear how many are already in Ukraine, all of the 14 Challenger 2 tanks promised by the U.K., meanwhile, should arrive before the anticipated Ukrainian offensive, according to The Guardian.
Ukrainian crews have returned home after completing training in the U.K. on those tanks, according to the newspaper.
“The Ukrainian crews and the tanks are expected to be in position in time for a spring counteroffensive that is believed to be in the works,” The Guardian reported. “The UK defense secretary, Ben Wallace, said the Ukrainian soldiers “return to their homeland better equipped, but to no less danger.”
The U.K. MoD produced a 30-minute documentary to show the effectiveness of the training and the skill of the Ukrainian armor troops.
As for the 31 promised U.S. Abrams tanks, even though an effort is being made to speed up delivery, they are not expected to arrive in Ukraine until the fall at the earliest, according to the Pentagon.
"Ever since we made this announcement, we've been committed to exploring options to deliver the armored capability [M1 tanks] as quickly as possible," Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon’s top spokesman, told reporters last week. "After further study and analysis on how best to do this, DOD, in close coordination with Ukraine, has made the decision to provide the M1A1 variant of the Abrams tank, which will enable us to significantly expedite delivery timelines and deliver this important capability to Ukraine by the fall of this year."
Aside from the armor already in Ukraine, more has been promised to Kyiv. A shipment of M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles arrived in Europe in February, and Ukrainian personnel have been training on them, but there are no clear indications that any of them have joined the fighting yet.
Canada has also promised 200 Roshel Senator Mine-Resistant, Ambush Protected armored vehicles, at least some of which have been in Ukraine since January.
"Defense Minister Anita Anand announced in January 2023 that Canada will donate an additional 200 Senator commercial pattern armored vehicles to Ukraine. Roshel will be responsible for delivering the vehicles to Ukraine, and deliveries are expected to be completed by summer 2023."
"In April 2022, Canada announced an initial eight armored vehicles purchased from Roshel for Ukraine. These were delivered in May 2022," the Canadian MoD told The War Zone Monday.
Regardless of when all the promised equipment will finally make it to Ukraine, Reznikov said the paradigm has already shifted.
"We are already winning," he said Monday, using a derogatory term for Russian troops frequently uttered in Ukraine. "After all, the Orcs' 'special operation' is going 'according to plan' — they are digging trenches and trying to fortify themselves. In their heads, they have already changed the paradigm from 'we are the second army in the world and we will defeat you in three days' to 'we must go on the defensive.'"
"Yes, we have come a long way. And there is much more to come. All our cities will be liberated and we will go to the borders internationally recognized in 1991. And this new technique will be a good company for its 'brothers" on the battlefield.'"
Reznikov said he learned first-hand how well the Challengers work.
"By the way, after personally 'piloting' the Challenger, as a participant in trophy raids, I can say that even the driver of a Rolls Royce will not be as comfortable as the crew of this work of martial art on off-road," he said.
"So, in short: our 'military zoo' is expanding. And an 'elephant' joined the 'war cats.' That's what our paratroopers nicknamed the Challenger."
Before we dive into the latest updates from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can get caught up on our previous rolling coverage here.
Russian President Vladimir Putin claims to be unimpressed by the amount of donated armor heading to Ukraine.
"The arsonists plan to send to Ukraine somewhere more than 400, 420 or 440 tanks," Putin said in a Saturday interview with the official Russian 1TV news agency. "During this time, we will produce more than 1,600 new ones and also modernize the existing ones. And the total number of tanks of the Russian army will exceed three times the number of tanks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Even more than three times. I'm not talking about aviation, the difference is many times simple there. Ten orders of magnitude."
Even if Putin's statement about building that many tanks is nothing more than a pipe dream, 1,600 new ones wouldn't make up for what he has already lost in Ukraine. According to the Oryxspioenkop OSINT group, Russia has lost at least 1,900 tanks, though the actual figure is likely much higher since they only count vehicles that can be visually confirmed as destroyed, damaged, abandoned or captured.
However, videos continue to emerge of trainloads of Russian tanks on the move throughout the country, in this case, newly refurbished T-62MV tanks.
On the battlefield, the Donetsk Oblast coal mining town of Bakhmut continues to be the epicenter of fighting. But despite months of fierce combat, Ukraine continues to hold on in Bakhmut, where several videos have emerged showing the intensity of the fighting and some of the gains of Russian forces.
Russian state media has released video showing Wagner mercenary group troops controlling most, if not all of the AZOM Metalworking and Concrete Plant in northern Bakhmut.
Video has also emerged apparently showing Ukrainian troops and tanks in the embattled city.
Russia, meanwhile, continues using S-300 air defense missiles to attack Ukrainian cities, in this case Sloviansk, where authorities say at least two people were killed and 29 injured.
Though Putin on Saturday announced he intends to deploy tactical nuclear weapons to Russia's neighboring ally Belarus this summer, the White House on Monday said it has seen no immediate changes in Moscow’s plans for weapons of mass destruction.
“We haven't seen any movement of any tactical nuclear weapons or anything of that kind since this announcement,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters, including from The War Zone, Monday. “We certainly haven't seen any indication that Mr. Putin has made some sort of decision to use weapons of mass destruction, let alone nuclear weapons, inside Ukraine.”
The U.S., Kirby added, is continuing to monitor the situation.
“We have seen nothing that would cause us to change our strategic deterrence posture,” he said.
China poo-pooed Putin's Belarus move, saying that Beijing "believes that a nuclear war should never be unleashed, and calls on the parties to focus on diplomatic settlement of the 'Ukrainian crisis,'" according to the Ukrainian Ukrinform news agency. Ukrinform cited Mao Ning, the People's Republic of China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson.
On Sunday, the official Russian TASS news agency claimed a Ukrainian Tu-141 converted Soviet-era jet surveillance drone was downed in Tula Oblast by electronic warfare jamming systems. The incident took place about 200 miles northeast of the border and just 130 miles south of Moscow.
That incident, in the Russian town of Kireyevsk, is likely the beginning of the implementation of plans to take the war deep into enemy territory, Head of the Center for Military and Legal Research Oleksandr Musienko told the Ukrainian Radio NV on Monday.
“The drones flying (into Russian territory) are not yet the turning point, and I think there’s more to come,” he said.
“Since Ukraine has many developments because it is Ukraine that has developed a fairly effective aiming system, which has no equivalent in Central Europe. In fact, it gives us hope that we’ll have many more opportunities to destroy the enemy.”
The Tu-141 found in Tula Oblast was not the first time Ukraine has used these drones to strike or attempt to strike deep inside Russia. Both the Russian Defense Ministry and Ukrainian officials say Ukraine has used those drones as long-range weapons before. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) - and a Ukrainian official cited by The New York Times - claimed the drones were used in December attacks on the Engels and Dyagilevo air bases that reportedly damaged some Russian aircraft and injured personnel.
We were the first to report on these improvised weapons a year ago in March 2022, when one of them landed in Croatia in a bizarre incident. Ukraine converted the cruise missile-like drones into strike weapons by adding a warhead. You can read more about that here.
Speaking of drones, in a news segment produced by Radio Svaboda - the Ukrainian arm of the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty - Ukrainian "drone hunters" show what's inside Iranian drones. According to them, although Iran has denied supplying drones to Russia, "many of the circuit boards are written in Farsi. And many electronic components of drones are of Western production, including the U.S. and Japan."
In an exclusive interview with The Times of London, the head of Ukraine's Navy recounted two of his proudest moments, the April 2022 sinking of the Russian Navy’s Project 1164 Slava class cruiser Moskva and winning the battle for Snake Island.
“There was no special operation to destroy the Moscow cruiser," said Vice-Admiral Oleksiy Neizhpapa. "I’m not going to tell you how we discovered this group of ships, but I will say that it was all done by the Ukrainian Navy alone. When we located this target, we chose the biggest one as the chances of hitting it were the highest. So we used two Neptune cruise missiles on this target. Of course, we understood that it was the Moskva because only the Moskva could possibly be that big.”
The victory at Snake Island, which straddles sea routes into Odesa and the Dnipro River, "allowed Ukraine to negotiate the UN-brokered grain deal with Russia, the vice-admiral said," The Times reported. "The Kremlin’s decision to seize Snake Island and maintain a garrison there had been another example of overconfidence, he argued."
“It could only be supplied by sea or air, so the navy group was assigned the task of disrupting these communications between Snake Island and occupied Crimea. The Harpoon missile system coped with this task very well."
Defense analyst Guy Plopsky has posted images of a Russian Su-25 Frogfoot close-air support jet carrying a load of S-24B 220mm high explosive, fragmentation unguided rockets.
Graphic videos of drones dropping munitions on troops, like the one below, have become ubiquitous in this conflict.
The Russians have apparently been taking note of these attacks, designing a mesh covering for trenches they hope will prevent the numerous deaths and injuries that have been inflicted from above.
And finally, while trenches are brutal places to fight a war, at least one creature was none too happy about efforts to evict it, as you can see in this video below of an apparently unsuccessful attempt by Ukrainian troops to remove a beaver from their trench.
That's it for now. We'll update this story when there's more news from Ukraine to report.
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