The Ukrainians ready their tanks to launch the counteroffensive: “This is our chance to go home”

On the eastern front of Ukraine, the soldiers in charge of the tanks say they are ready for the offensive announced by kyivafter fighting Russian forces at Bakhmut, where the battle could soon come to an end.

In the middle of a forest, the person in charge of the oleksandr group and three other soldiers clean the huge barrel of their T-72 tank with a brush of six meters.

They have not fired for several days, but they make sure that their combat vehicle is operational. The goal is to be “always ready” for the announced offensivesays Oleksandr, commander of a squadron of T-72s, which Poland sent to Ukraine a few months ago.

Ukraine has claimed, for several months, that it wants to launch a decisive assault to reverse the course of the Russian invasion and liberate the occupied territory, including the Crimean peninsula.

“We have to move on, because This is our only chance to go home soon. Only with our victory can we get home sooner. So we wait, we wait”, explains the team leader, out of breath after cleaning the canyon.

A Ukrainian soldier in his tank near Bakhmut (AFP) (DIMITAR DILKOFF /)

In the distance, artillery fire and explosions rumble. Bakhmut It is only about 15 kilometers. Since the boreal summer, this city has concentrated the violent fighting that ravages eastern Ukraine.

The Wagner paramilitary group and the special forces of the Moscow army have made notable progress in recent weeks in the center of the town, where Ukrainians are only present in a small part of the west.

The Russian authorities, for their part, claim to control close to 90% of the city, almost totally destroyed and which before the conflict had some 70,000 inhabitants. “From what I can tell of the current situation, It seems there is nothing left in Bakhmut that is controlled by us.”, says Oleksandr.

A Ukrainian serviceman cleans a machine gun of his tank on a position near the frontline city of Bakhmut, Donetsk region on April 29, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.  (Photo by Dimitar DILKOFF / AFP)
Cleanup. The soldiers keep them ready for when they receive the orders to attack (AFP) (DIMITAR DILKOFF /)

suitable zones

Zaur, for his part, stayed in the city for five days in mid-April to support the infantry, although “in general, tanks are not designed for urban combat”.

“It is a big machine. It is difficult to turn around, maneuver, go back”, explained this soldier, in front of another tank.

Tankers consider the region around Bakhmut less suitable for their heavy vehicles than Kherson or Zaporizhzhia, which has vast agricultural plains in the south of the country.

Analysts regularly mention these areas for the possible offensive by Ukrainian forces, announced for the spring.

Around Bakhmut “the landscape is very difficult. There are valleys and ditches. And the distances are very short: 200, 300 meters. So it doesn’t make sense, they [los rusos] they can see us And the visibility is pretty bad in our tanks”, explains Oleksandr.

A Ukrainian serviceman places branches on a tank, at a position near the frontline city of Bakhmut, Donetsk region, on April 29, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.  (Photo by Dimitar DILKOFF / AFP)

To reconquer the territory he lost, Ukraine claims to have formed assault brigades and stockpiled ammunitionwhile trying to do without his own troops and reduce those of his adversary at the front.

has also received tanks and long-range artillery of their western allies.

But for Ivan, a 24-year-old mechanic, “the counteroffensive will not change things so quickly”. “For a counteroffensive, large forces are needed, a lot of equipment (…) I don’t think it will happen soon. And it won’t be that easy,” he says, as he cleans the machine gun on his T-72 tank.

Meanwhile, “we keep the machines, we keep the weapons. We learn new things. We are always alert”, adds the young man.

Oleksandr, 40, deputy commander of the battalion to which these soldiers belong, insists on the importance of preparation.

“Here [en un tanque]You have to understand everything with half words. For tankers, a split second is key. Escape from a bombardment or reach the objective. Because the target doesn’t stay still either, it moves. You have to reach it, you have to destroy it and complete the task, ”he explains.

(With information from AFP)

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