CNN reports that the Ukrainians are still near Soledar

Ukrainians are forced to make temporary repairs while waiting for Western armored vehicles

Two mechanics work around the axles of a tank, near Kreminna, January 12, 2023.

“To win this war, we need additional military equipment, heavy equipment. “Our cooperation with our allies continues, and now I can say that we have started buying heavy equipment.”Andriy Yermak, the head of the presidential office of Ukraine, recalled in a message he sent on Telegram today.

In fact, Ukrainian tank crews have to make do with what they have, old Soviet-designed tank models with rustic comfort, such as the T-64. To face the winter, they resort to keeping warm in their tanks with their own hands – sometimes with such tools as a box of cat food turned into a paraffin candle. The drivers of these vehicles hope that one day they will have real on-board heat if their Western allies accept Kiev’s demands for newer and more modern tanks.

A commander commanding a tank brigade near the ruined city of Lyman, which was recaptured from Russian troops in October but is still close to the front, admits: “Cold is the least of our worries. (…) The situation is very serious, the equipment is breaking down.” and running out of ammunition, he told Agence France-Presse (AFP) under the falling snow. Next to him, a young mechanic works under an armored car in the icy mud in the deep crevasses left by the tracks of the vehicles going to the front.

“We don’t have spare parts to maintain the tanks and the rails are breaking, so if our maintenance crew sees any tanks that have been hit, they take what they need.”the commander explains.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba this week called on the West to provide the country with military aid for more ammunition, artillery, anti-aircraft systems and armored infantry. Interests are particularly focused on the German Leopard 2 battle tank, and Poland has said it is ready to supply Kiev under the green light from Berlin.

These more modern tanks are superior to their Soviet counterparts in many ways, but most importantly where the ammunition is stored. “On a Soviet tank, the crew sits on ammunition, so if the tank is hit, almost 100% of the crew is dead.”Captain Volodymyr Tchaikovsky explains, but on the Leopard, the shells are stored behind the armored panel instead of the crew compartment. “The most important thing for us is the safety of our crews and their lives are our priority. Equipment can be replaced, employees cannotaccording to Mr. Tchaikovsky. This is the main reason we need western tanks. Everything else – GPS, night vision, thermal vision… – comes later. »

American CSIS (Center for Strategic and International Studies) analyst Mark Cancian also emphasizes the importance of this point. Although for some a “design flaw” Leopard – keeping ammo in the back makes the tank bigger and easier to hit – expert more one “compromise”. Ukrainians seem largely willing to do just that.

According to Cancia, the new tanks also have better targeting systems and can strike at longer ranges than the tanks used by Russia and Ukraine. These systems can be installed especially on the Soviet-designed T-72. This will make up the bulk of Ukraine’s fleet of around 700 tanks when Russia begins its invasion on February 24, 2022, Mr. Kansian assures.

And upgrading these T-72s may be a better option for Ukraine, which believes that given the number announced, rather than hoping for the arrival of Leopards. “There will be no miracle cure”. Because even if dozens of cars are sent to Ukraine. “We are more symbolic than real military potential”, for Mr. Cancian. But for Captain Tchaikovsky, whose 25-year-old son is a lieutenant in his battalion, Western help is important: “If we don’t get support from abroad, the conflict will be prolonged and there will be more casualties. »

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