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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

500 Russian Tanks Amass Near Kupyansk, Facing Thousands of Ukrainian Drones

A massive assemblage stands poised on Ukraine’s eastern front—a force comprising five hundred tanks, over 600 combat vehicles, numerous howitzers, and a formidable troop strength of forty thousand. Positioned opposite the free Ukrainian city of Kupyansk, this formidable field army has a clear objective: reclaiming a substantial portion of Kharkiv Oblast that Russia briefly occupied in 2022, until a potent Ukrainian counteroffensive liberated most of the region late that year.

The target extends eastward from the nearest major river, and the Ukrainian Center for Defense Strategies elucidates that the Russian Federation aims to seize Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts, along with a segment of Kharkiv Oblast up to the Oskil River by March 2024. The Oskil River courses through Kupyansk from the north.

The strategic timing aligns with Russia’s upcoming “presidential election” in March, where Vladimir Putin is the sole candidate, ensuring his continued authoritarian control over Russia and the aggressive warfare in Ukraine. A portion of Kharkiv could serve as a symbolic gift to Putin on election day, courtesy of the Russian forces in Ukraine.

Kupyansk and its environs are defended by approximately ten Ukrainian brigades, anchored by the 3rd Tank Brigade in the north and the 4th Tank Brigade in the south. This substantial force, comprising around 20,000 troops and numerous tanks, combat vehicles, and howitzers, faces a critical challenge—ammunition shortages.

Also Read: EU Readies Billions from Frozen Russian Assets for Ukraine

The United States, a major contributor of 155-millimeter shells for Ukraine’s artillery, abruptly cut off aid last fall due to pro-Russia Republicans in Congress. Ukrainian forces now receive only a third of their previous daily allotment, while Russian forces, supplied by North Korea, unleash up to 10,000 shells daily, giving them a significant firepower advantage.

This asymmetry empowers Russia to employ a tactic of systematic urban destruction, rendering populated areas indefensible. Satellite imagery already indicates sustained and intense artillery damage around Kupyansk. The Institute for the Study of War warns of uncertainty in Ukrainian operational plans due to shortages and delays in Western security assistance.

Facing this dire situation, Kyiv mobilizes efforts to fortify Kupyansk. New mechanized brigades reinforce the garrison, trenches are dug, bunkers are constructed, and, notably, explosive-laden first-person-view drones are produced in large quantities. While these drones are effective against smaller Russian assault groups near the front line, their limited range of two miles poses a challenge against artillery positioned further away.

The impending clash raises a critical question: Can a swarm of two-pound drones, even in the thousands, stand against the might of 500 tanks, 650 combat vehicles, and an onslaught backed by relentless artillery fire? The answer remains uncertain as the situation on the 600-mile front unfolds.

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