The 3rd Separate Assault Infantry Brigade began the war in Kyiv, when recruitment offices in the capital were overwhelmed with reservists wanting to get to assigned to a unit, and so many of them joined territorial defense battalions being formed frantically in an attempt to hold back Russian armored columns closing in on the city.

Through word of mouth, one of the new Kyiv territorial defense battalions attracted dozens of active (and marginal) members of the Azov group, a patriotic volunteer organization that had sent armed men to the Donbas in the 2014-16 period, to hold back the Russian army in its first invasion of Ukraine.

Members later told Kyiv Post that the new territorial defense battalion had also attracted substantial numbers of Ukrainians living abroad the moment Russia invaded in late February 2022. Once in Kyiv, they found they were unable to travel onwards to get home, or decided to join up with the Kyiv territorials because that’s where the Russians were attacking.

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Over the next 12 months volunteers and donated equipment kept pouring in, and the “Azov” territorial defense battalion was re-designated a brigade, then made a regular army special missions brigade, and most recently a regular army Assault Brigade.

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Starting out with little more than Kalashnikov rifles and Molotov cocktails, the 3rd Assault now is heavily armed with Soviet era artillery captured from the Russians, anti-tank missiles and mortars donated to Ukraine by NATO, even M-113 tracked armored vehicles, and ubiquitous US-made HUMMV armored cars mounted with the venerable, but still effective, “Ma Deuce” .50 machine gun.

ISW Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, July 21, 2024
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ISW Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, July 21, 2024

Latest from the Institute for the Study of War.

The 3rd fought for months in the southern sector and its reconnaissance patrols were among the very first Ukrainian units to enter and liberate the city of Kherson, in November 2022. On May 9 reports surfaced of an outright tactical defeat of Russia’s 72nd Motor Rifle Brigade by elements of the Ukrainian army’s 2nd Battalion, 3rd Assault Brigade, in combined arms attacks on Russian positions to the southwest of Bakhmut.

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According to reports confirmed by Kyiv Post, two companies of Russian infantry were wiped out, losing between 100 and 500 men to Ukrainian tank and .50 machine-gun fire, and grenade assaults. Squads from the 3rd captured Russian armored personnel carriers, prisoners of war, and advanced Ukrainian lines westward three kilometers.

It was the most extensive liberation of Russian-occupied ground, by any Ukrainian unit, anywhere on the fighting front, since late January. As the Ukrainian army’s spring counteroffensive kicks off in late May or early June, the 3rd Assault Infantry Brigade would very likely be tapped to lead any further attacks in Bakhmut sector.

If the wider Ukrainian army offensive were to bog down, with the Ukrainian army high command needing to throw a skilled infantry unit able to clear tough defenses into the fight, the 3rd would be a high-probability formation for that mission.

READ MORE:

  • Ukraine’s Counteroffensive, Units to Watch #1 – 3rd Separate Assault Infantry Brigade
  • Ukraine’s Counteroffensive, Units to Watch #2 – 28th Mechanized Brigade
  • Ukraine’s Counteroffensive, Units to Watch #3 – 82nd Air Assault Brigade
  • Ukraine’s Counteroffensive, Units to Watch #4 – 10th Mountain Infantry Brigade
  • Ukraine’s Counteroffensive, Units to Watch #5 – 73rd Naval Center of Special Operations
  • Ukraine’s Counteroffensive, Units to Watch #6 – Specialized Unit Kraken
  • Ukraine’s Counteroffensive, Units to Watch #7 – 37th Marine Brigade
  • Ukraine’s Counteroffensive, Units to Watch # 8 – 47th Separate Mechanized Brigade 'Magura'
  • Ukraine’s Counteroffensive, Units to Watch # 9 – 92nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade
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