A Soviet-era T-72 rumbles through the woods belching thick black smoke as it zooms over frozen mud near the battered Ukrainian town of Bakhmut.

The tank is old – a remnant of a bygone era – but it’s all the crew of the 24th Mechanized Brigade have to defend themselves against Russian aggression.

With the sound of rockets and the thud of artillery echoing through the grove, the crew explains what they are up against and what they need to end this fight.

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“Tanks were created to support infantry, not for defense but for attack. For example, to liberate our territories, we absolutely need tanks, because it’s like a flaming fist and a force to move forward “, said Roman, the company commander.

“This one is such a stupid tank – a simple rocket launcher made a long, long time ago could pose a very serious threat to it, but modern tanks are better equipped and they are more immune to this type weapons.”

Early in the war, military planners wondered if the days of the tank were over.

But it’s a land war with a line of contact stretching hundreds of miles.

Everywhere you look along the front you can see smoke on the horizon battered by artillery strikes and cannon flash from the big guns.

We were taken to another position on the front line where rusty old tanks – mostly donated by Eastern European countries – hide in the trees.

They’re still deadly when locked and loaded, but in the face of a sustained Russian onslaught, they’re just not up to the task.

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Picture:
Roman wants better equipped modern tanks for his company

The conflict in Ukraine has turned into a fight of attrition

Ukraine fears that Western fatigue and an eternal stalemate will spell the end of the country.

It has achieved tactical successes, such as the liberation of Kherson and the Kharkiv regions, but without even greater Western support it will be difficult to maintain operational tempo and initiative.

The Russian forces are well entrenched.

The conflict turned into an attritional fight through the trenches.

And just as tanks helped break the stalemate on the Western Front in World War I, military planners in Kyiv hope to do the same in this conflict more than a century later.

They need protection and maneuverability to push their infantry forward – something only modern Western tanks, they say, can provide.

Everything indicates that Moscow is engaged in a long fight and plans a major offensive with hundreds of thousands of men in the spring.

But it’s about more than just maintaining a position.

Vladimir Putin says a Russian victory is inevitable, but Ukraine says that with the right equipment, it can do more than hold Moscow back – it can keep pushing forward and win this war.

What they don’t understand here is the slowness of some Western countries to get involved.

For every day lost, they argue, there is a high price to pay with Ukrainian blood.

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