“When the Russians see the Panthers, they will panic.”

Scrap metal is spread over at least a third of the Ukrainian territory. They are the rusted, fire-riddled skeletons of the Soviet tanks that the Russian and Ukrainian armies battle, many of which perish inside these iron giants that appear more powerful than they really are. In the year that the conflict lasts, Kiev claims to have destroyed 3,350 enemy tanks. 16 just yesterday. The United States estimates that Vladimir Putin has lost half of his fleet, and although Volodymyr Zelensky’s government does not provide data on his losses, Ukrainian soldiers admit they have similar problems. The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) estimates that Ukraine has lost a maximum of 700 tanks. Some did not break. They have changed their positions. Yevgeny Panchenko, commander of a Ukrainian tank company, shows two of them. Before they were decorated with the letter Z, which symbolizes the Russian invasion, and now they wave the blue-yellow flag. This is a T-80 manufactured in 2021 and a T-72 from the Soviet era. Both are crouched under the shelter of trees in a forest near the capital, Donetsk, which is occupied by Russian forces and the target of frequent attacks. Last August, during a battle in Kherson, we surrounded our T-80 and shot it from behind. It became useless and we couldn’t take it because they started attacking us with artillery, but we hid it. In November, when the city was liberated, we took it back, repaired it and started using it,” Panchenko says proudly. “The first time we fought him, the Russians saw him coming and thought he was one of them, so they didn’t attack and surprised them.” His unit alone managed to Five tanks captured since the invasion began. But mostly they are T-72s from the Soviet Union. Cars whose arrival was heard long before they were seen. Worst of all, they have major, even fatal, flaws in design, a fact that is being Perfectly appreciated in the turrets that stay away from the tank body on the battlefield. They break off easily and pose a great danger to operators. “They are a mousetrap,” Panchenko admits. Zygur Checkers As if that weren’t enough, Soviet tanks fail more than just a gun in “These are tanks from 1964 and 1972. They are very old and break a lot,” explains Afanasy, one of the mechanics in charge of fixing them. Two or three of his hands pass by him every day at the Donetsk base. This journalist attends the repair of a Caterpillar tractor For one, a process that takes p This takes hours and requires the intervention of dozens of men and several heavy vehicles. “We try to keep them in good condition, but they don’t always withstand the rigors of combat and there are times when they break down in the middle of a battle. Soldiers have to run away to avoid getting killed, and if we’re lucky, we come back after the fight to fix it.” This explains the abandonment of many armored vehicles here and there. Scrap “Most of the tanks we had would have been scrapped. But the invasion started and we had to get them working again,” explains Valentin, who uses his nickname “Molvar” instead of his last name and who knows what he’s talking about, because his tank was out of order and he suffered a hernia in his tank. As a result of that bid, fortunately, there are some T-72 tanks donated by European partners that are in slightly better condition. “This one is Polish and has been modified slightly to accommodate more modern systems,” says Molvar in the temporary hangar, asking that its location be kept secret. Inside is very cramped and uncomfortable. There is hardly room to move your legs or turn your body, light is scarce, and visibility is almost non-existent. With the exception of the driver, those who fight in the T-72 do so practically blindly. The long-awaited Leopard and Abrams Although Afanasy acknowledges the Russians have the same problems, “despite the fact that they have more modern versions,” the mechanic joins those urging the EU and the US to send in the long-awaited Leopard 2 and Abrams M1 to Ukraine. As many others point out, he argues that they can make a difference on the ground and facilitate Ukraine’s advance into the Donbass, as Russia slowly gains ground. Exactly the first units of the long-awaited Leopard arrived on Friday on Ukrainian soil from Poland, in an action chaired by Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Schmyhal and his Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki, at a location not specified for security reasons. The range of Soviet tanks is about two kilometers. But that Leopard can go as high as five. This will allow us to fight from a distance and better protect the lives of those in the tank and the infantry,” analyzes Panchenko, who claims to fire up to 200 shells a day with his tank. Also, when the Russians see the Panthers they will panic, because they are not used to fighting advanced weapons. They can even undermine their morale,” he adds. “Obviously, the engineers designed the Leopard with the protection of its occupants in mind. Our tanks were made in the Soviet Union, where life was not so important.” “In addition, the Panthers are less noisy, easier to repair and maintain,” he adds, hoping that it won’t take long for them to arrive and asking how many Spain will eventually send. Panchenko has no doubts: “If we had the modern weapons of the West, we would have won this war now.”

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