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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

Russia is Now Fighting Against Its Own Weapons in Ukraine

MiG-35 fighter. Image Credit: Russian Government.
MiG-35 fighter. Image Credit: Russian Government.

Ukraine is taking left behind Russian gear and putting it to good use: The amount of equipment that the Russian forces abandoned during their rout from the advancing Ukrainian forces was so big that the Ukrainians could very well outfit almost two tank brigades.

Russia: The Largest Weapon Supplier of the Ukrainian Military 

There is a running joke in Ukraine that the Russians are the largest weapon supplier to the Ukrainian military. And this is true. Ever since it hit a roadblock in the opening weeks of the invasion, the Russian military has been abandoning equipment on almost every occasion.

The Ukrainian military has been refurbishing and deploying captured Russian weapon systems since the war started. In that, the Ukrainian military is fortunate to be operating the same type of weapon systems as its adversary—and the same applies to the Russian forces too.

The recent Ukrainian counteroffensive in the east provided another great haul of Russian equipment for the Ukrainian forces. In some reports, the estimate is that the Russian forces left more than 200 tanks, armored personnel carriers, and infantry fighting vehicles for the Ukrainians.

And the tanks left behind by the fleeing Russian forces don’t concern only obsolete T-64s or aging T-72s but also the most modern machines in the Russian military’s arsenal. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense has been circulating footage of the capture of a T-90M main battle tank that was left behind in the area around Kharkiv intact.

The Russian military made much of it when it started deploying the T-90M to Ukraine, and the abandonment of such an advanced weapon system (at least by Russian military standards), was a major psychological defeat for Moscow.

“Russian forces suffered devastating losses of manpower and equipment in their fight for eastern Ukraine and especially during the Ukrainian Kharkiv counter-offensive. Multiple Russian armored and mechanized units have likely been effectively destroyed according to assessments released on September 18,” the Institute for the Study of War assessed after the end of the major Ukrainian counteroffensive in the east.

With Western sanctions in place, the Russian defense and aerospace industry is having an increasingly more difficult job replacing the lost weapon systems. As a result, the Russian military is becoming more combat ineffective as the war goes on.

A Word on Casualty Reporting in Ukraine 

To be sure, casualty reporting coming out of Ukraine has been contested from the start—as is always the case with ongoing conflicts.

The numbers that the Ukrainian military is claiming every day are bound to represent a more optimistic estimation of Russian casualties than the numbers U.S. and Western intelligence services occasionally surface.

TOS-1 in Ukraine

TOS-1 firing in Ukraine. Image Credit: Russian Military.

But visual evidence from independent open-source investigators proves that the Russian military is getting bled dry in Ukraine.

For example, the Oryx open-source website has independently verified the destruction, damage, capture, or abandonment of more than 6,300 Russian military vehicles and weapon systems since the war started on February 24. And this figure includes tanks, armored personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles, artillery pieces, multiple rocket launchers, aircraft, and more. 

Expert Biography: A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business InsiderSandboxx, and SOFREP.

1945’s Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist with specialized expertise in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.