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Waiting for Leopard tanks on the Kharkiv front: "We don't have what it takes for the counteroffensive"


The local troops in Dvorichna withstand the pressure of the invader, but demand the necessary weapons to push him back

A soldier raises his arm from the shoulder to stop the two-vehicle humanitarian convoy.

It does not require papers or any other type of control of passage.

He only asks for water to continue digging with his companions.

They are part of groups of uniformed men building new trenches and fortifying defense positions on tracks in the eastern Kharkov region that lead from the town of Kupiansk to towns like Dvorichna.

This enclave, to which volunteers go to evacuate civilians who live under constant bombardment, is on the front line of combat between the Ukrainian and Russian armies.

There, as well as on other fronts, kyiv awaits the new weapons promised by the allies, especially ammunition and tanks, such as the six German-made Leopards announced by Spain.

Poland, with four, and Norway, with eight, are the first countries that have already delivered them.

President Volodímir Zelenski himself, impatient, urged and implored the European Union to expedite the shipment of weapons at the summit of the leaders of the Twenty-seven that concluded this Friday in Brussels.

Meanwhile, it will be difficult for Ukrainian troops to advance, according to local Kharkov authorities.

“To defend ourselves we have enough, but for a counteroffensive we don't have what is necessary.

That is my personal opinion”, admits Andrii Besedin, mayor of Kupiansk.

The popular Soviet models of the T-72 tank "have numerous flaws," says


, the nickname of a 28-year-old Ukrainian who has been in the army since 2018 and is today in charge of a battalion of the Third Tank Brigade deployed in the east. from Ukraine.

During some maneuvers in the Kharkov region, he does not openly complain about the weapons they have and comments that they have tanks and ammunition.

But, at the same time, he adds, "it is not a secret" that, right now, the enemy is better equipped or that Ukraine needs models like the Leopard.

With them, he understands, they will improve in precision and speed when it comes to reloading and shooting.

Melania Yakovchuk, 80, arm in arm with her son Fedor, 60, during their evacuation from Dvorichna, on the Kharkiv front, on March 21Luis de Vega

Europe, however, should not focus solely on the number of tanks that Ukraine needs in the medium term, "about 150 acceptably modern," says Christian D. Villanueva, director of the magazine



Allies should not neglect spare parts and maintenance, he assures.

“The tanks by themselves are not going to change the war.

They will perform better than the Russian tanks for sure, but if they are not used properly, or if they become single-use systems, that when they break down they are left lying around due to inability to start them again, the European effort will not help. a lot”, concludes Villanueva.

Dovorichna is the last position in Ukrainian hands, one of the points where their great counteroffensive to liberate areas occupied by Kremlin troops stopped last September.

The town overlooks the Oskil River, which forms the border between the two armies and which the Russians are trying to cross back towards its western shore.

Fighting takes place daily in the surroundings of a riverbed that runs almost parallel to the demarcation between the Kharkov and Lugansk regions, in the Donbas stronghold, controlled almost entirely by the Russians.

The Russians are making "a lot of effort to come back," says Slava, 37, an infantry company chief who prefers not to give his last name.

"But the situation is totally unpredictable for both parties," he adds.

Around the river "there is a lot of tension, but allow me not to give you all the details," he claims during a conversation during the break from the maneuvers that his men carry out together with members of the Third Tank Brigade, which participated in the ax blow that struck the enemy in September.

Slava already fought for a year in Donbas before the great Russian invasion of 2022 and in his civilian life he works in an agricultural company that has frequently taken him to Spain.

He does not hide the fact that the Oskil is of vital importance, despite the fact that it is nothing more than a stream, especially when compared to the great Dnieper, one of the largest rivers in Europe,

The V for victory

In these exercises there are soldiers, like Slava, already seasoned in the Donbas war since 2014 and others who have been joining the ranks since Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine on a large scale on February 24 of last year.

And there are even many more veterans, such as Commander Oleksandr Timochenko, 56, who amid the roar of T-72 shots explains that these men have been deployed in the Donetsk and Zaporizhia regions.

"Now we have withdrawn them from the front so they can rest, repair the tanks, improve their formation and coordinate with the infantry to make the enemy withdraw," he details.

As they perch on top of the tanks, some make a V for victory with their fingers or raise their fists while smiling optimistically.

"Additional armor and electronics are essential" to determine if one tank model is better than another, says military analyst Jesús Manuel Pérez Triana.

Electronic advances are what make it possible to ensure that "where you put your eye you put the bullet" regardless of weather conditions, distance or whether it is night.

In general, adds the analyst, “Westerners have more armor and are heavier.

The Soviets opted for faster, smaller and more elusive cars.

It is rare for them to exceed 50 tons, while for Westerners it is rare for them to go below 60".

The improvements of each model are important, he insists.

That is why asking for a T-72, without specifying what type, "is like asking for an iPhone without specifying what model".

Spain, for example, has the Leopard 2E, much more modern than the six units —maybe up to 10— of the 2A4 model that it is going to deliver to Ukraine.

Maneuvers of the Third Tank Brigade of the Ukrainian Army in the Kharkiv region on March 17Luis de Vega

“In global terms, the Leopards are much better cars than the T-72s,” Villanueva explains, referring to the 2A4 and 2A6 that Ukraine is waiting to receive.

The Soviets have a crew of three soldiers, compared to four of the larger Germans.

"Although they suffer from greater weight", Villanueva has no doubt that the Leopards are superior because "they are better protected, they have better optics and aiming systems, the ammunition is more advanced, the communications and battlefield management equipment They are more modern…”

In any case, another “fundamental element is training”, he adds, since “Spanish instructors admit that with a five-week course they are very fair, since it takes time to take advantage of such a complex car”.

He refers to the 55 Ukrainian tankers who have received instruction in Zaragoza from the Spanish military.

Coinciding with the first anniversary of the great invasion ordered by Putin, Poland delivered the first four Leopards to the Ukrainian army and eight have arrived this week from Norway.

They will be joined by British Challengers and American Abrams.

an entrenched front

While the reinforcements arrive, the artillery fire is constant on Dvorichna.

The exit and entrance bombardments do not stop during the hours in which EL PAÍS remains in the town, almost deserted like all the surrounding areas.

Faced with this entrenched and immobile front for months, Slava, the infantry chief, acknowledges that now they are facing "a totally different situation."

Last September, the counteroffensive was sudden.

“That was the key that led us to success.

They were relaxed, beginning to enjoy the areas they had occupied, to normalize their lives there.

That is why our attacks advanced so quickly”, sums up the soldier.

In Kupiansk, what Russia considered its capital in occupied Kharkiv for half a year, it opened up to the headquarters of a Moscow bank.

Maneuvers of the Third Tank Brigade of the Ukrainian Army in the Kharkiv region on March 17Luis de Vega

The battlefront marked by the Kupiansk-Liman line remains under heavy Russian artillery fire these days with Soviet-era armored vehicles and very old tanks, the spokesman for the Ukrainian Eastern Forces Group, Colonel Serhii Cherevati, said this week. .

The intensity of those clashes in which the artillery commands has forced Russia to dust off old tanks manufactured more than 60 years ago due to the impossibility of accelerating the production of new weapons.

In recent days, movements of units of the T-54 (manufactured until 1959) and T-55 (until 1979) have been verified, according to the Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT), a group of Russian opposition analysts who consult open sources to provide details of the war.

Russia has lost half of its most modern tanks since the great invasion of Ukraine began, according to a report last month by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

In total, between 2,000 and 2,300 tanks from the invading army have been put out of action, while the local army has lost about 700, according to Henry Boyd, an IISS analyst, in statements to Reuters.

In turn, the Ukrainian army has managed to recover enemy battle tanks from the front, which they reuse once they have been set up.

“In their mentality, [the Russians] maintain the same objectives as on February 24.

We are fighting sick people who want to occupy all of Ukraine.

We have to defend ourselves, force them to retreat,” says Andrii Besedin, the mayor of Kupiansk.

He is on an interim basis in a position to which he has been appointed by President Zelenski.

His predecessor at the head of the city opened its gates and handed it over to the invader, who did not have to spend ammunition to get hold of it.

"If they come to this side of the river again, they won't be received like last time," predicts the mayor.

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Source: elparis

All news articles on 2023-03-25

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