In what can be deemed a remarkable accomplishment for Russia, its forces successfully destroyed at least one Leopard 2 tank on June 7 during a recent Ukrainian assault near Novopokrovka, Zaporizhzhia Oblast.
A video released by the Russian Ministry of Defense on June 8 depicted a Russian artillery strike targeting a Ukrainian vehicle column in southern Ukraine.
The video was likely recorded by a Russian drone positioned overhead during the artillery strike. The drone’s crew presumably played a role in directing the strike and evaluating the consequential damage.
In the released footage, a convoy of Leopard 2 and other Ukrainian armored vehicles, traversing an unpaved road outside occupied Novopokrovka or the neighboring Mala Tokmachka, can be seen falling victim to a devastating Russian artillery strike.
The Oryx, a Dutch open-source intelligence (OSINT) defense analysis website, has also verified the destruction of the German-made Leopard 2 tank by the Russian forces.
— ?? Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) June 8, 2023
The specific brigade to which the Ukrainian forces belonged remains uncertain; however, the attack is widely believed to be a part of Ukraine’s highly anticipated counter-offensive to reclaim the territory currently under Moscow’s occupation.
Kyiv’s much-anticipated counter-offensive is thought to have recently begun, with forces marching across the battlefield on several fronts, aided by NATO-donated Leopard 2 tanks and other armored equipment.
Therefore, according to experts, the reports of a Leopard 2 tank being destroyed are not surprising, as equipment losses and casualties are common in operations of this nature, particularly during the early phases.
According to Forbes, Ukraine’s allies have committed to providing 85 Leopard 2 tanks, consisting of short-gun A4, newer short-gun A5, and long-gun A6 models.
David Axe, a Defense expert, said that if the Russians manage to destroy all the pledged Leopard 2 tanks currently provided by Ukraine’s allies for the war effort, Ukraine can still expect additional tanks to reinforce its forces.
This includes the delivery of 31 M-1 Abrams tanks from the United States and over 130 Leopard 1 tank from a consortium involving Denmark, the Netherlands, and Germany. These incoming tanks will help maintain Ukraine’s military strength despite potential losses.
However, as the counter-offensive unfolds, Ukraine is anticipated to endure further losses in terms of tanks, fighting vehicles, and artillery. The human toll is also expected to rise, reflecting the grave realities of the conflict.
Ukraine’s Counter-Offensive Operation
Ukraine has initiated a concentrated offensive primarily centered in Zaporizhzhia Oblast. On June 8, Ukrainian forces attacked positions in and around the heavily devastated city of Orikhiv.
Reports indicate that Ukraine incurred significant losses during these operations, as also acknowledged by some US officials.
According to information shared on various Russian Telegram channels, Ukraine is currently making efforts to advance through the region situated between Orikhiv and Tokmak in Zaporizhzhia Oblast. This particular area holds strategic importance as Ukrainian forces would need to traverse it to approach Crimea.
In a podcast discussion, Michael Kofman from the Center for Naval Analyses, a US research group, noted that the fighting had undergone a significant shift, with Ukrainian forces seemingly initiating offensive operations near the eastern town of Velyka Novosilka, along with other locations in the southern part of the Donetsk region and the border with the Zaporizhia region.
While Kofman does not consider these attacks the primary offensive campaign, he believes they signify the initial phase of Ukraine’s broader offensive action.
Meanwhile, CNN reported that Ukrainian forces made some gains against Russian forces in the east near Bakhmut. Still, the Russians are putting up strong resistance with defensive lines and minefields, causing heavy damage to Ukrainian armored vehicles.
US and Western officials have long been preparing for the anticipated counter-offensive, taking measures to strengthen Ukraine’s defenses prior to its commencement.
Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister, Hanna Maliar, confirmed that the offensive is underway on multiple fronts, stating, “It is not only about Bakhmut.
The offensive is taking place in several directions.” She expressed satisfaction with the progress made by Ukrainian forces, describing the day as successful.
That being said, ISW (Institute for the Study of War) stressed that the initial stage of Ukraine’s counter-offensive operations is expected to be the most challenging and costly in terms of casualties and equipment losses.
The efforts to breach Russia’s defensive positions will require Ukrainian troops and armored units to face formidable obstacles.