Russia is sending 60-year-old T-62 main battle tanks to the front lines in Ukraine to make up for heavy losses, the Defense Ministry said on Monday.
Even the 1st Guards Tank Army, rumored to be Russia’s leading armored force, will be converted with the “old” vehicles, British defense chiefs believe.
In 1954, BTR-50 armored personnel carriers were deployed in Ukraine for the first time in 1954, as Mosov forces attempted to take the embattled city of Bakhmut.
It comes as the leader of Russia’s Wagner mercenary force asked for ammunition for his troops around the eastern Ukrainian city.
Ukraine’s fierce defense means the offensive could collapse unless resupplied, Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin has said in the latest sign of tensions between the Kremlin and the private militia chief.
Ukrainian military officials and analysts also reported that leaders of the Russian 155th Brigade, fighting near the town of Vuhledar south of Bakhmut, defied orders to attack after suffering heavy casualties in attempts to capture it.
Russia’s Defense Ministry on Sunday claimed its forces had attacked a command center of Ukraine’s Azov regiment in the southeastern Zaporizhia region.
Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin said Russia’s front lines near Bakhmut could collapse if its forces don’t receive the ammunition promised by Moscow in February.
“At the moment we are trying to figure out the reason: is it just ordinary bureaucracy or treason,” Prigozhin said on Sunday in his press service Telegram channel, referring to the lack of ammunition.
The mercenary chief regularly criticizes Russia’s defense chiefs and top generals. Last month he accused Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and others of “treason” for withholding shipments of ammunition to his men.
“If Wagner withdraws from Bakhmut now, the whole front will collapse,” said Prigozhin. “The situation will not be comfortable for all military formations protecting Russian interests.”
A Russian victory at Bakhmut, with a pre-war population of about 70,000, would give it its first major victory in a costly winter offensive after it called up hundreds of thousands of reservists last year.
The Department of Defense said Monday morning: “Approximately 800 T-62s have been withdrawn from storage since the summer of 2022 and some have received enhanced vision systems that will most likely improve their effectiveness at night.
“However, both of these vintage vehicle types will have many weaknesses on the modern battlefield, including the lack of modern explosive reactive armor.”