- Ukraine takes delivery of U.S. Abrams tanks
- Tank crews say they offer more protection and firepower
- The Abrams tanks would be a big step up from the Soviet-era tanks they are currently operating.
- The Kremlin said this week that U.S. supplies of military hardware such as the Abrams tanks would not change the situation on the battlefield.
- The Ukrainian counteroffensive is making slow progress.
- “It’s all about a large number of Russian troops. Advances are made by big numbers,” an officer said.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that Ukraine had taken delivery of its first shipment of U.S. jet-powered Abrams tanks to help in the defence against Russia’s invasion. Ukrainian tank crews in the eastern front see the first delivery of U.S. Abrams tanks to Kyiv as a boost that will offer them more protection and firepower in battle.
Mark Milley, the top U.S. general, has said he regards M1 Abrams tanks as the world’s best and that they “will make a difference” in the 19-month-old war. With a powerful engine, 120 mm main gun and special armour, the Abrams tank is particularly lethal against heavy armour forces.
Ukrainian tank crews training in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine said that once they were deployed, the Abrams tanks would be a big step up from the Soviet-era tanks they are currently operating. A tank commander who uses the call sign “Wel” said his team needed the additional firepower and protection offered by the Abrams and other Western tanks, such as the German-made Leopard.
“It would be better to have foreign weapons. The armour is better and they are more effective, I believe,” he said as tank crews advanced in their Soviet-era tanks across wooded terrain and scrubland during recent drills. Using a derogative term for Russians, he said: “My friends who were trained to drive Leopard tanks and took part in assaults told me that T-72 tanks which belong to the Orcs were penetrated (by the Leopard tanks) as if it were a frying pan. Very quick. It takes only one or two shells and there is nothing left.”
In January, the U.S. pledged to supply Ukraine with 31 advanced M1A2 Abrams tanks after months of shunning the idea of deploying the difficult-to-maintain tanks to Ukraine. Zelenskiy did not say how many have been delivered so far.
The Kremlin said this week that U.S. supplies of military hardware such as the Abrams tanks would not change the situation on the battlefield. Milley has also said there is no “silver bullet” to end wars.
A 26-year-old officer who gave his name as Oleksandr said his main concern was facing large contingents of Russian troops. The east is one of two main fronts in the war as Ukraine mounts a nearly four-month-old counter-offensive. Although Kyiv’s troops have been strengthened by Western arms, progress has been slow against Russian troops sent in force to the eastern front.
Oleksandr said his wish list for Western military assistance would include ammunition, artillery and fighter planes as well as tanks. “And more manpower because there are wounded and killed among infantry,” he said.
(With inputs from agencies)