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25 Feb, 2024 12:06

First Abrams tanks sighted near Avdeevka – local official

Ukraine received 31 of the US-made vehicles, which have since been conspicuously absent from the battlefield, several months ago
First Abrams tanks sighted near Avdeevka – local official

Moscow’s forces have for the first time spotted US-supplied M1 Abrams main battle tanks on the Donbass front, a senior Russian official has said. A batch of the US-made heavy armor was delivered to Ukraine last year.

In an interview with TASS on Sunday, Igor Kimakovsky, an adviser to the head of Russia’s Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), said that the tank type had been sighted northwest of the city of Avdeevka which was recently captured by Russian troops.

The official did not provide further detail on the number of Abrams, their apparent combat readiness, or how Ukrainian commanders were deploying them. Kimakovsky also noted that Kiev’s troops were actively using drones near Avdeevka.

US President Joe Biden announced that Washington would provide Kiev with 31 M1 Abrams tanks – enough to equip one armored battalion – in late January 2023. Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky said in late September that the first US armored units had arrived in Ukraine, with the delivery being completed in mid-October, according to US officials.

Since then, however, the tanks have been notably absent from the battlefield, with some Western experts suggesting that Kiev might be holding them in reserve for a potential major offensive, or may have decided that the Abrams would not be effective in winter conditions against fortified Russian defenses.

Zelensky himself tried to play down expectations for the Abrams. “I hope… there will be more deliveries, but I cannot really say that they [tanks] are playing a major role on the battlefield. They are too few,” he said in November.

The first reports of the Abrams deployment came after Russia captured the strategic Donbass city of Avdeevka, with Moscow claiming that the Ukrainian retreat from the area had turned into a disorganized rout with heavy losses.

Moscow has consistently denounced Western arms shipments to Ukraine, arguing that they will only prolong the conflict. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has also warned that Abrams tanks sent to Ukraine “will burn” like the rest of its Western-supplied equipment.

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