Ukraine’s advances into its occupied territories are prompting Russian forces to leave behind their equipment, according to Ukrainian military officials.
The speed of the victory of Ukraine’s Armed Forces in the Kharkiv region last month resulted in Russian troops abandoning heavy weapons and supply depots in a disorganized retreat, Ukrainian newspaper Kyiv Post reported.
Russian forces also left behind a “substantial” amount of Soviet-era artillery shells, the supply of which had almost run out in Ukraine, according to the outlet.
“The Russian occupiers are running so fast under pressure from Ukrainian soldiers that they’re leaving whole ammunition arsenals behind,” the Security Service of Ukraine was quoted as saying by the Wall Street Journal.
One Ukrainian volunteer battalion, the Carpathian Sich Battalion, officially known as the 4th Sich Company of the Kyiv Regiment, captured 10 T-80 tanks and five 152mm 2S5 Giatsint-S self-propelled guns (SPG) after entering the liberated Ukrainian city of Izium, Ruslan Andriyko, the unit’s deputy chief of staff, said.
“We’ve got so many trophies that we don’t even know what to do with them,” Andriyko was quoted as saying by Kyiv Post. “We started off as an infantry battalion, and now we are sort of becoming a mechanized battalion.”
Some captured Russian weapons could be used immediately, while others had to be repaired before they could be deployed again, according to the report.
For instance, a Ukrainian artillery battalion is now using four recently-captured Russian 2S19 Msta 152-mm self-propelled howitzers in tandem with American-made weapons, the unit’s head said.
“The Russians no longer have a firepower advantage. We smashed up all their artillery units before launching the offensive, and then we started to move ahead so fast that they didn’t even have time to fuel up and load their tanks,” the officer said, according to Kyiv Post. “They just fled and left everything behind.”
Ukraine has reportedly retaken 9,000 square kilometers (3,475 square miles) of territory in Kharkiv following the counteroffensive in the region last month.
The Ukrainian operation was supposedly fueled by captured Russian weapons.
About 449 Russian tanks, 462 infantry fighting vehicles, 197 armored fighting vehicles and 92 SPGs have been captured in the war, Oryx, an initiative that tracks military equipment losses, confirmed.
Captures are “a mix of modern equipment” that Ukraine can use “quite effectively,” but some would not be out of place “in museums,” according to Jakub Janovsky, who compiles the count of weapons losses at Oryx.
Ukraine’s recent gains, combined with weapons taken during Russia’s retreat from several areas in April, have turned Russia into the largest supplier of heavy weapons for Ukraine, according to open-source intelligence analysts.