The Russian army lost at least 130 tanks and armoured personnel carriers during a three-week tank fight in the town of Vuhledar in February which became the biggest one since the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, The New York Times reports, citing Ukrainian officials and commanders.
The journalists were unable to verify this information independently. Ukraine has also not shared its own losses suffered in the fight. According to Ukrainian commanders, by the beginning of last week Russia “had lost so many machines to sustain armoured assaults that they had changed tactics and resorted only to infantry attacks”.
The cause of such losses was the same error committed by the command as the one that had cost Moscow hundreds of tanks at the beginning of the war, the article says — columns of vehicles ended up in ambushes where they were “blown up on mines, hit with artillery, or obliterated by anti-tank missiles”.
Furthermore, NYT reports that Russia’s Armed Forces filled the positions left empty by killed members of elite units by recently drafted soldiers. In particular, Ukrainian servicemen say that they captured a doctor who was ordered to operate a tank.
At the end of February, Telegram channel GREY ZONE affiliated with PMC Wagner reported that general Rustam Muradov, commander of the Eastern Military District, “continues killing troops [to take] Vuhledar”.
“[He] has decided to significantly weaken one of the best tank brigades (the 5th Tank Brigade) of the Russian Armed Forces. <…> The rumour is that the commander of the Pacific Fleet recently [punished] Muradov for the losses suffered by the naval infantry in Vuhledar, while the relatives of killed soldiers are all but inclined to take blood revenge on the general,” the post claims.
At the end of February, British intelligence reported that the Russian 155th Naval Infantry Brigade had, most likely, suffered “extremely high” casualties in Vuhledar. The images published by the UK Defence Ministry showed Russia’s vehicle losses. The American Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has also indicated that Russian forces had used an unidentified number of personnel belonging to the Pacific Fleet Naval Infantry in Vuhledar.