Ukraine is Finally Using its French and German Tanks in Battle: New Video Shows Their Destruction in Donetsk

Ukraine began to receive Western produced tanks in late February, after Britain made the first pledge of such vehicles as aid to the country in December, which was closely followed by pledges from Poland, Germany, the United States, France and other countries from across NATO. Ukraine previously fielded by far the largest tank force in Europe comprised mainly of T-64s built in the Soviet Union, with these having been supplemented throughout 2022 both by hundreds more T-64s, T-72s and T-80s from its reserves, as well as hundreds of T-72s from across NATO member states as well as from Morocco which transferred the vehicles through Western intermediaries. With supplies of Soviet designed vehicles running increasingly short, however, Ukraine has been promised a wide range of Western tanks including British Challenger 2s, American M1A2 Abrams and German Leopard 1 and Leopard 2s, with France pledging its AMX-10 armoured fighting vehicles which, due to their armour and gun calibres, have at times been referred to as ‘wheeled tanks.’ With Western tanks having reportedly been reserved for long awaited major offensives against Russian positions, which began earlier in June, some of the first footage of these tanks in combat in Ukraine was published by the Russian Defence Ministry on June 6. 

Footage released by the Defence Ministry allegedly shows four pieces of heavy equipment including a German Leopard 2 tank under attack on the frontlines in Donetsk, Eastern Ukraine, with the tank struck by an anti tank missile of unknown designation. The footage’s release came a day after the ministry reported that eight Leopards and three AMX-10s had ben destroyed on the frontlines, in engagements which saw Ukrainian forces lose 1,500 servicemen, 28 tanks and 109 other armoured vehicles in a failed offensive that day. Three days into the offensive, Russian government sources reported the Ukrainians had lost 3,715 service members, 52 tanks and 207 armoured fighting vehicles alongside a range of other assets. These kinds of attrition rates are in line with reports from a number of Western sources regarding the rates of losses which Ukrainian ground forces have endured on the frontlines in Eastern Ukraine in the past.

Germany was initially reluctant to provide European states with permission to supply Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, with this speculated to have been largely influenced by concerns that combat could tarnish the tank’s reputation – a major loss for the most iconic German defence product. The Leopard 2’s combat record has left much to be desired, with the Turkish Army having taken heavy losses using the vehicles in Iraq and Syria against local militia forces, providing cause for concern that losses against the Russian Military would be far heavier. German weapons, alongside those from Italy, have been singled out for criticism by Ukraine for their qualitative deficiency, although it remains uncertain whether Leopard 2 tanks will join the list of armaments deemed sub standard compared to comparable equipment being provided from other sources such as the United States.