A convoy of Russian tanks was destroyed in a Ukrainian ambush that saw Moscow suffer another setback in its goal of seizing Kyiv.
While the Red Army was still last night edging towards the capital, a number of Russian T-72 tanks and other vehicles were obliterated in the surprise attack from the front and back of the convoy, forcing those who survived to turn and flee.
the loss of another senior commander.
Drone footage posted online captured the ‘Battle of Brovary’, named after the north-eastern Kyiv suburb in which it took place.
It showed explosions around the Russian tanks, releasing plumes of black and grey smoke into the air. Yesterday smouldering shells of Moscow’s machinery sat abandoned by the road.
In video released by Ukraine’s military, a Russian soldier could be heard saying: ‘Commander, the commander’s dead!’.
Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence named the dead Russian commander as Colonel Andrei Zakharov, of the 6th Tank Regiment of the 90th Tank Division, whom its statement describes as having been ‘liquidated’.
In 2016, he was awarded the Order of Courage by Vladimir Putin, and the two stood shoulder-to-shoulder in photographs.
The second voice asked for the message to be repeated – to which the first voice shouted: ‘He’s dead! The commander’s dead!’.
Zakharov’s death, which could not immediately be verified, is another blow for Putin, as it follows those of Major General Vitaly Gerasimov, chief of staff of Russia’s 41st Army, reportedly killed in fighting in Kharkiv on Monday, and Major General Andrei Sukhovetsky, the 41st Army’s deputy commander, who perished early in the invasion.
Last night, in signs of growing confidence, the Ukrainian Armed Forces said they would ‘crush the enemy’ while the defence ministry said heroic troops would ‘not back down’.
Meanwhile the British Ministry of Defence revealed: ‘Due to strong Ukrainian resistance, Russian forces are committing an increased number of their deployed forces to encircle key cities. This will reduce the number of forces available to continue their advance and will further slow Russian progress.’
It also noted reduced Russian air activity, perhaps due to the ‘unexpected effectiveness’ of Ukraine’s air defence.
The deaths of officers are a growing sign of Russian desperation to seize new ground despite poor organisation and logistics.
Former SAS hero and paratrooper Robin Horsfall, who spent six years specialising in the use of anti-tank equipment, described the convoy as a ‘military disaster’
‘The Ukrainians are using simple tactics,’ he said. ‘Mine the roads, drop bridges, use anti-tank weapons. The Russians are getting hit by artillery because they can’t get off the road. It’s amateurish.
‘No general in the western world would get away with planning something like that. I think it is political, from Putin, not his generals, because I can’t imagine generals being that incompetent.
‘The ground isn’t suitable and they’re running out of fuel and food. Russia’s weak underbelly is being exposed. After this, no one is going to be scared of them.’
On Putin’s tactics to seize Kyiv, he added: ‘The Russians let everyone know they were coming and the Ukrainians were waiting for them and they are getting slaughtered.
‘I feel sorry for the young conscripts. Russia has already lost this. For Putin, there is no face-saving way out.’
On the official Twitter page of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Commander-in-Chief Valeriy Zaluzhny said the ‘battle in the direction of Brovary ended with the complete defeat of [Russian] troops.
‘We will “nightmare” the enemy, crush it with equipment and weapons, will not rest another day or night.’
Buoyed by the minor victory, Ukraine’s defence minister Oleksii Reznikov yesterday boldly called for Russians to leave the country.
He said he would ‘accept Russian capitulation with understanding, adding: ‘I recommend for every Russian soldier to follow a Russian ship before it is too late.’
Despite the Ukrainian fightback, half of the population of Kyiv has fled since the war began, mayor Vitali Klitschko said yesterday.
He said a ‘little less than 2million’ of the city’s usual 3.5million residents had escaped but warned the capital was now ‘a fortress’.
‘Every street, every building, every checkpoint has been fortified,’ he added. Russia’s key goal is to capture Kyiv and its army has separate convoys in other strategically important positions on its outskirts, such as Irpin, with Ukrainian forces engaged in a firefight in the outpost city just 13 miles from the capital yesterday.
Meanwhile a Russian prisoner of war revealed that his team had been instructed to capture Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, in just three days.
The unnamed man, said to be a platoon leader, claimed to have been given permission to ‘open fire on command and on all city residents’ in footage released by Ukraine’s security service.
On the 15th day of the war, Kharkiv remained under Ukrainian control but was suffering from yet more attacks from the sky.
Four people, including two children, were killed in overnight shelling on a residential area.
Overnight strikes in the north-eastern city of Okhtyrka also reportedly killed a 13-year-old boy and two women. Yevhen Deidei, a former Ukrainian MP and father-of-three, was yesterday thought to have been killed near Kyiv.