Service members of Ukraine’s heavily-armed 47th Mechanized Infantry Brigade on Wednesday reported their unit was making slow progress in one of the most heavily-defended sectors of the Zaporizhzhia front, despite the loss of US-made Bradley infantry fighting vehicles and Germany-made Leopard 2 tanks by the unit in battles earlier in the month.
Valery Markus, the brigade sergeant major, in posts on his personal Telegram channel, said assault teams from the 47th over the past 24 hours captured a series of Russian defensive positions and pushed forces “deeply” into Russian lines, in hard fighting.
“Yesterday (June 27) there was a 24-hour period of assaults. We advanced very far, very deeply (into the Russian positions). On foot. We’re very tired. We’re occupying (the Russian) positions. Now we are going to go forward some more, with battles. It looks like it won’t be quick. Their defenses here are very dense. They’re very well-built,” he said.
Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) infantrymen and gunners overnighted in the captured positions sleeping on Russian soldier corpses, before renewing their attack on Wednesday, Markus said.
The 47th Brigade is a newly raised unit armed primarily with modern Western kit and trained extensively at NATO bases in Germany and Poland. On June 8, at the outset of the AFU’s summer offensive, the unit attacked near the town Mala Tomachka and was badly ambushed, first striking minefields and then being hit by Russian artillery, anti-tank missiles and helicopter gunships.
The formation according to open sources lost at least ten men killed, and five German tanks and nine American infantry fighting vehicles were destroyed in AFU’s worst tactical defeat of its summer offensive. Since then, Ukrainian progress on the southern front has been sporadic and slow.
Markus did not specify the location of the reportedly successful Tuesday attacks. Ukraine’s Joint Forces Tavria in a Wednesday morning statement confirmed AFU attacks in the Orikhiv sector were in progress.
Some Russian information platforms identified the villages Pyatykhatky and Rabotyne, both objectives of attacks by the 47th in the past two weeks, as under heavy pressure by AFU artillery and armored vehicles on Wednesday. The pro-Russia military information site Readovka claimed an AFU attack “in the Zaporizhzhia sector” lost three tanks and three armored personnel carriers, without giving details.
A 47th Brigade officer, nom d’guerre Legion, told Radio Svoboda in a television report published on Wednesday that Russian defenses faced by his unit are heavily fortified: “The number of mines in this sector, I haven’t seen in nine years of war… It’s true our operation (to advance earlier in the month) didn’t go as planned, it took several days.”
Markus in a separate, Wednesday post echoed the report of powerful defenses erected by Russian forces in the Orikhiv sector which, he said, Ukrainian attacks are only able to overcome with slow, time-consuming deliberate assaults by infantrymen on foot. Russian minefields are a particular problem, he said. The video was recorded in a position captured and cleared of Russian infantry overnight, Markus said. He was not wearing protective armor or a helmet in the recording.
“Regarding mines. Historically it’s worked out, are ten times more effective than us, in terms of combat engineer activities. Why this is the case is a separate question. Why that’s the case in our country and in our army? But it is a fact. You really can’t conceive of how massively, quickly, and effectively they lay mines. We can’t lay mines the way they can. We can’t dig in like they can. That’s a fact,” Markus said. “The situation that was on the video, is the result of effective work by the Russians. You can hit a minefield anywhere. Reconnaissance doesn’t always have information (about where the Russian mines are).”
In a horrific video widely shared across military Telegram channels on Tuesday, a drone records a 47th medic arriving in a US-made Bradley to pick up wounded during fighting on June 8, stepping out of his vehicle to give first aid, and losing his leg after stepping on a mine. Markus said sharing of the video would harm the Ukrainian war effort, but, that the images were real. Kyiv Post has reviewed the images and considers them authentic.
“That happens, unfortunately, this is war. These are assaults. And in assaults, unfortunately, people die. We (in the 47th Brigade) go to do our jobs, in a place where people want to kill us. That’s our work,” Markus said.
Markus on June 13 broke a standing AFU ban against serving soldiers speaking publicly about ongoing operations, in a series of posts attacking reports the 47th was possibly poorly commanded and that the high quality western heavy weapons – including state-of-the-art Leopard tanks and Bradley IFVs – it was equipped with had been improperly employed.
General Valery Zaluzhny, commander of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU), on Wednesday appeared to signal his tacit approval of Markus’ speaking out, posting on his (Zaluzhny’s) personal Telegram account: “Valery! Put your combat armor on! Right now! I’m warning you!”
Markus responded with the AFU version of “Yessir!” and an army salute emoji.
Screenshots of the exchange between general and sergeant were going viral by Wednesday afternoon.
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