Ukraine appears to have thrown one of its strongest brigades into the fight against Russian forces in the south of the country, with evidence emerging the 82nd Air Assault Brigade is heavily involved in the fight for the village of Robotyne in the western Zaporizhzhia region.
This is likely bad news for Moscow’s troops facing off on the other side of the front line, as the Forbes on May 3 had described the unit as “ridiculously powerful.”
What’s the latest?
As Kyiv Post’s Stefan Korshak wrote in a profile of the 82nd Air Assault Brigade back in May: “Arguably, the combination of highly mobile NATO-standard infantry fighting vehicles supported by extremely capable tanks, will make the 82nd a force tailored to advance quickly to seize ground.
“On paper, the 82nd looks very much like a formation task organized to drive through a breach in defensive lines made by other forces.”
And it appears that right now that’s exactly what they’re doing.
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) in its daily assessment on Aug. 15, wrote: “Ukrainian forces advanced into Robotyne, and further Russian and Ukrainian reporting published on Aug. 15 suggests that Ukrainian forces have committed additional counteroffensive brigades to the western Zaporizhzhia Oblast area.”
According to the available evidence, these “additional counteroffensive brigades” include the 82nd, and Ukrainian milbloggers are highlighting their successes already.
War Zone+, said: “Immediately after the introduction of reserves [including the 82nd], successes appeared.
“The AFU advanced along the entire bridgehead and entered the settlement, Robotyne, having taken positions in the north of the village and in the landings to the west.”
Who are they?
The Ukrainian military has never acknowledged the existence of this unit, so details are a bit on the sparse side, but the Pentagon documents leaked earlier this year provided an illuminating insight into what Ukrainian commanders had planned for the brigade.
They showed that a significant chunk of the best NATO-delivered infantry armored vehicles were headed for the 82nd, specifically 40 tracked German Marder infantry fighting vehicles and 90 US-made Stryker wheeled infantry combat vehicles.
Both the Marder and Strkyer vehicles are equipped with excellent day/night sensors and sights, auto-cannons and enough space for a squad of infantrymen.
According to the leaked documents, this meant the 82nd would be the only AFU formation operating these two vehicles.
While excellent vehicles, neither Marder nor Strkyer are designed to take on tanks, which is why the brigade was also being bolstered with 14 British Challenger 2s, by most accounts the most powerful and best-armored tank on the entire battlefield.
First produced in the 1990s and continually updated, the Challenger has operated successfully in the Middle East and Southeast Asia.
It is a main battle tank designed to defeat any combat vehicle it comes up against, carrying cutting-edge layered armor, modern optics and a 120mm and rifled cannon.
Two battle-tested Ukrainian combat units – the 25th Airborne and the 80th Air Assault Brigades – sent tank crews to the UK where they trained on the Challengers, before being assigned to the 82nd.
How accurate were these reports?
In recent days there has been visual evidence supporting the reports.
On Tuesday, a video emerged of a Stryker being hit by a Russian Lancet loitering munition.
The footage was released by Russian sources with some commentators suggesting the reason it cuts out so abruptly is because the Stryker survived the attack and was able to drive away.
East of Robotyne. A Lancet hits a Stryker APC of the 82nd brigade. Looking at the footage it seems the Stryker continues to move after it was hit, and that’s the reason Russians cut the footage. First time a Stryker is seen so close to the front. pic.twitter.com/jJTbQ5wtgb— NOELREPORTS 🇪🇺 🇺🇦 (@NOELreports) August 15, 2023
Pictures also emerged purporting to show a Marder spotted near Robotyne earlier this week.
⚡️🇩🇪German "Marder" BMPs and 🇺🇸American "Stryker" armored personnel carriers, which most likely belong to the newly created 🇺🇦82nd separate amphibious assault brigade, were spotted for the first time near the village of Robotyne in the Zaporizhzhia region pic.twitter.com/2mM45OIh86— 🇺🇦Ukrainian Front (@front_ukrainian) August 15, 2023
Again, the pictures were released by Russian sources, so the Kremlin’s forces do appear to have located at least some of the 82nd’s infantry vehicles; but they don’t seem to have visual confirmation of where the brigade’s Challenger tanks are at the moment.
Nevertheless, we do know they’re somewhere in the southern region as one was spotted by a Ukrainian Telegram channel, complete with a “cope cage” to protect from kamikaze drone strikes.
So, what happens next?
That’s a closely guarded military secret, but it’s likely we’ll see the Challenger tanks being committed to the fight in an attempt to smash through the Russian defenses.
But this will be no easy task – Ukrainian Colonel Petro Chernyk has acknowledged the summer offensive is advancing slowly in the south due to three lines of Russian defenses – a first line of minefields stretching several kilometers wide; a second line with artillery, equipment, and personnel concentrations; and a third line of rear positions meant to preserve resources.
Breaking through and taking Robotyne will be hugely significant, bringing the Armed Forces of Ukraine one step closer to their goal in the region – reaching the Sea of Azov and cutting the Russia’s occupying forces in two.
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