Russia’s failed attempt in January and February to capture Vuhledar, a town in eastern Ukraine, has been described by some observers as a tank battle.
That is not quite accurate. Videos of the offensive indicate that it was more a matter of Russian tanks against Ukrainian anti-tank weapons—in particular mines. The mines came off best.
According to the Moscow Times, a newspaper based in Amsterdam, the Kremlin has dismissed General Rustam Muradov, the commander responsible for the assault. Similar actions have been seen elsewhere: so why do the Russians keep sending their tanks into minefields?
Ordering such advances at Vuhledar may seem indicative of a command failure. But for tanks, a minefield should not be impenetrable. Mines rarely destroy tanks, though they will usually succeed in immobilising them by damaging their track or blowing off a wheel.
If there are only a few mines attackers may push through; if they capture the territory, damaged vehicles can be recovered. But in Vuhledar, and elsewhere, Ukraine has laid large numbers of mines close together. Attempts to find gaps have been fruitless. More importantly, Russia’s de-mining efforts have been ineffective.
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