News Region & Country Ukraine

Ukraine’s counteroffensive stalled by array of Russian mines

Due to the risk, Ukraine has slowed its advance so infantry can clear the path for Western-supplied tanks.
Nicholas Slayton Avatar
Ukrainian tankers in the Donetsk Oblast on July 15, 2023. (Photo by Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

A network of Russian anti-tank and anti-personnel mines have ground Ukraine’s counteroffensive to a slow advance.

That’s according to a new report in the Washington Post, which says that the sheer amount of mines has forced Ukrainian troops to pull Western-supplied tanks from the front of the counteroffensive while infantry carefully deals with minefields. As a result, the counteroffensive — already experiencing fierce fighting and high casualties on both sides — is only creeping forward. 

Mines have been a dangerous presence in Ukraine since the war began. When Russia’s initial advance toward Kyiv was repelled and Russian troops fell back to the country’s east, they left behind mined roads, fields and towns. Both Ukraine’s military and civilian volunteers — including American veterans — have worked to remove mines left over in recaptured territory, but they remain a key part in Russia’s efforts to slow Ukrainian advances.

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An anonymous Ukrainian official told the Washington Post that requests for demining tools from partner nations have not been fully met, leaving its forces stalled by mines. Officials also said that demining equipment is being targeting to further delay the push, with sapper units operating in darker hours to try to locate and neutralize the mines.

As a result, Kyiv’s forces have changed strategy, Ukrainian military personnel said. Rather than try to break through with the infantry fighting vehicles and battle tanks that Western allies provided to aid Ukraine in this counteroffensive, units are moving forward, slowly, on foot. Brigades are being held in reserve until paths can be cleared to advance. 

Over the winter and early spring, several Western tanks, such as the German Leopard ones, and combat vehicles like the Bradley infantry fighting vehicle, were sent to Ukraine. When the counteroffensive started, they were put into use, but heavy fighting as well as the intensity of the minefields have disabled or destroyed some of them.

“You can no longer do anything with just a tank with some armor, because the minefield is too deep, and sooner or later, it will stop and then it will be destroyed by concentrated fire,” Ukraine’s top military commander, Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, told the Washington Post.

Earlier today Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed Ukraine’s counteroffensive, telling a state broadcaster that efforts to break through Russian lines have not been successful. On Thursday Putin commented on Western-supplied tanks, calling them a “priority target” for Russian forces operating in Ukraine.

The war in Ukraine has repeatedly seen advanced technology be subdued or neutralized by older technology and tactics. Decades-old weapons have been regularly used, including World War I-era machine guns, while uneven and damaged, mud-filled trenches have essentially ground advances with modern vehicles to a crawl. 

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