A Soviet-era T-72 rumbles through woodland, belching thick black smoke as it fishtails on frozen mud near the devastated Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.
The tank is old – a vestige of a bygone era – but nevertheless all the crews of the 24th Mechanized Brigade have to defend themselves against Russian aggression.
With the whine of rockets and the thud of artillery echoing through the wreckage, the crew explains who they’re up against and what they need to end the fight.
“Tanks were designed to support infantry, not to defend but to attack, so for example to liberate our territories we definitely need tanks because,” says company commander Roman. It’s like a fist of fire and a force to move forward,” says Roman, the company commander.
“It’s a very stupid tank – just a simple rocket launcher that was built a long time ago could have been a really serious threat, but modern tanks are better equipped and they’re safer with that type of weapon. “
Early in the war, military planners debated whether the tank’s time was over.
But this is a ground war with lines of contact stretching hundreds of miles.
Everywhere you looked at the front, you could see smoke on the horizon, lit by artillery fire and the muzzles of the big guns.
We were taken to another position on the front line where rusty old tanks – mainly donated by Eastern European countries – were hidden in the trees.
They are deadly even when locked and loaded, but are no match for the constant Russian attack.
The conflict in Ukraine has turned into a stalemate.
Ukraine The fear is that Western fatigue and a perpetual stalemate will sound the death knell for the country.
It has achieved strategic successes, such as the liberation of the Kherson and Kharkiv regions, but will find it difficult to maintain operational momentum and initiative without even greater Western support.
Russian forces are digging in well.
The conflict has turned into a battle across the trenches.
And just as tanks helped break the stalemate on the Western Front in World War I, military planners in Kyiv are hoping to do the same in this conflict more than a century later.
They need protection and maneuverability to advance their infantry – something only modern Western tanks can provide.
All indications are that Moscow is prepared for a long fight and is planning a major offensive with hundreds of thousands of men in the spring.
But it is more than just holding office.
Vladimir Putin claims that Russia’s victory is inevitable, but Ukraine says that with the right tools it can do more than hold Moscow back – it can go ahead and win the war.
What they don’t understand here is the slowness of some Western countries to commit.
They say that for every day lost, there is a heavy price to pay in Ukrainian blood.
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