If the world – and especially the Kremlin high command – had been more aware at the start of the war that the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) contained formations such as the 10th Mountain Infantry Brigade, there probably would have been fewer predictions of Ukraine collapsing in a few days.

Even for the AFU, the unit that is now the 10th Separate Mountain Assault Brigade brought to the war a tradition of die-hard Ukrainian patriotism and a long-established combat record. The formation predating the 10th was raised, effectively as territorial formation, in Ukraine’s far-western and viciously anti-Moscow Ivano-Frankivsk region, in 2015. Early recruits also included volunteers from the Donbas regiment – a unit drawn from residents of Ukraine’s Russian-speaking Donetsk and Luhansk regions, ready to fight against the Russian invaders, as well as activists from an extreme right nationalist group called Aidar.

Members of 10th Mountain Brigade brace as an artillery piece fires during combat operations in the Donbas sector. Unit phoograph.

The 10th fought in the Donbas’ toughest sectors in 2016 and 2017, returning to cantonments in wet Ukraine, where it was designated as a mountain infantry unit, whose missions would include operating in difficult terrain, such as that common in Ukraine’s Carpathia Mountain region. By 2022 most of the Donbas Regiment and Aidar fighters had left the unit and the 10th was an established regular army formation drawing recruits from across the country, who were subjected to highly demanding training standards.

In March 2022 the 10th Mountain was mobilized, sent to its old fighting grounds in the Donbas region, where it remained in close contact with Russian and “DPR” forces for the next eight months. According to Ukrainian military correspondent Yury Butusov, no Ukrainian combat brigade has had men on the line, longer and under continuous fire, than 10th Mountain. In Feb. 2023 the army high command transferred the 10th to the hard-pressed Bakhmut sector where, during March, a grinding Russian advance was brought to an effective halt.

EXPLAINED: How Ukraine Could Soon Achieve a ‘Significant Breakthrough’ in the South
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EXPLAINED: How Ukraine Could Soon Achieve a ‘Significant Breakthrough’ in the South

Western analysts have outlined three factors that need to hold true for Ukraine’s troops to make further progress in the south. Meanwhile, Russian sources sound more than a bit flustered.

Unit patch of 10th Mountain Assault Brigade with “Edelweiss” flash. The Edelweiss is a flower found only in Alpine regions and is a popular symbol for European mountain troops.

The formation was, according to open source reports, pulled off the line in Bakhmut in April 2022 to begin repair and refitting. Were Ukrainian army top planners to require a combat brigade skilled at urban warfare and bitter, close-in infantry fighting in the upcoming offensive, the 10th Mountain would be a probable candidate for the job.

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I love the insignia of 10th Mountain. It reminds me of my family's Austrian ancestry. The Edelweiss is a very important symbol.