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21 Jun, 2023 12:04

Ukrainian tank crews feigning damage to avoid fighting Russians – Der Spiegel

The subterfuge is apparently in response to the heavy resistance that Kiev’s counteroffensive has met
Ukrainian tank crews feigning damage to avoid fighting Russians – Der Spiegel

Ukrainian tank crews have been faking malfunctions on their tanks to justify not going into combat against Russian forces, fellow soldiers operating German Leopards have told Der Spiegel magazine. The revelation was part of a frontline report published by the news outlet.

The magazine spoke to three German-trained Ukrainian troops who were among the crew of two Leopard 2A6 tanks provided to Kiev by the Bundeswehr.  

The report cites a loader nicknamed Gutsik, who claimed that some crews fake technical malfunctions to avoid being sent to the frontline. He reportedly told the magazine that dodging an engagement altogether was better than entering combat only to pull out after the first shot. 

Another said he didn’t blame those who are refusing. 

“If they hit the turret, you’re a heap of ashes,” a man identified as Misha told Spiegel.

Nevertheless, the magazine praised the capabilities of the German tank, describing it as a “fortress in camo colors.”

The scenes described by the magazine appeared chaotic and tense, with the Ukrainians suffering significant losses. Some of the German tanks were destroyed or damaged in the offensive, as was other Western hardware. 

On one occasion, two soldiers came to seek advice on how they could kick-start an older Leopard 2A4 that had become stranded in ‘no-man’s land’ between Ukrainian and Russian positions.

The Der Spiegel report was based on a conversation that took place about a week into Kiev’s counteroffensive against Russian defensive positions in Zaporozhye Region. It claimed the soldiers interviewed were all veterans and among the most experienced tank operators in Ukraine. All had traveled to Germany to take a five-week course on how to operate the Leopards. 

Kiev launched its long-expected counteroffensive this month, hoping to take advantage of newly received Western-made weapons, including main battle tanks, to push back the Russian forces. However, the Russian military has reported repelling numerous assaults and inflicting heavy losses on Ukrainian forces.