ConflictWhen Ukraine uses enemy stocks
It is a classic war, possible only if the opposing weapons are in harmony. The Ukrainian military is recovering armor, ammunition and other critical equipment abandoned by the Russians.
Since late August, the war in Ukraine has entered a new phase, with two Ukrainian counterattacks around the southern city of Kherson, one of the first to fall into Russian hands, and in the country’s northeast. At the front, after four months of stagnant, violent fighting but little territorial gains, it was the Ukrainians who recaptured thousands of square kilometers. If in previous months the Russians themselves had captured enemy equipment, the trend has now strongly reversed.
When retreating, the Kremlin’s army does not always leave in perfect order. Jane’s, a private British intelligence agency, refers to the seizure of Ukrainian tanks, armored vehicles, artillery pieces, troop ships, forward command vehicles and other radar and electronic equipment.
A quick escape
Figures are questionable, but Janes recently recovered at least 200 vehicles, 40 tanks, 70 armored infantry and 30 artillery pieces. “Many were captured in the northeast and pushed from Kharkiv to Isium,” said an analyst in Jane’s on condition of anonymity. The Russians “seem to have assumed that they could escape faster in civilian vehicles than in armored vehicles”.
North of Kherson, AFP was able to count in October, about twenty Russian tanks, rocket launchers and transport vehicles destroyed or damaged recently. Half a dozen of them, seen in the morning, disappeared a few hours later.
Indeed, this war was terrible for men and equipment. And any material is welcome. “You always see a lot of civilian vehicles or light armor used in attacks. It’s not a trick, the Ukrainian army doesn’t have armored vehicles yet,” notes Michael Kofman, an expert at the CNAS think tank in Washington. Can be used as spare parts but may not be functional.
The object is not neutralized
The compatibility of weapons in this respect is a major advantage. Kyiv received many modern Western weapons and ammunition, but its initial equipment was of Soviet origin. “Often, armor plating is recovered from destroyed enemy armor,” notes historian Pierre Grosser of the Sirius Observatory in Paris. “An armored vehicle that is destroyed is also important for non-combustible parts: engines, suspensions, traction bars, which are invaluable.”
But in this war, the Russians make it easy for the enemy. They seem to have no “forward logistics” that would make it possible to recover damaged or broken equipment in the midst of battle. And in principle, “we neutralize the object before we drop it,” the officer explains. However, “the Russian command did not provide instructions for doing so”.
In the end, all of Ukraine’s allies are happy about it. “It also means that Western intelligence agencies and technical experts can assess Russian equipment.”
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