This is the dramatic moment a Russian mine-clearing vehicle was blown sky-high on the Donbas frontline during a battle with Ukrainian troops.
Drone footage shows a Russian UR-77 mine-clearing vehicle suffering a catastrophic explosion which advancing as part of an armoured convoy along the border between Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.
The video was captured in early October around 20 miles from Bakhmut which Wagner mercenaries have been trying unsuccessfully to take, with Kyiv saying the heaviest and deadliest fighting is taking place around that city.
It emerged online today as Ukraine claimed the number of Russian troops killed in the war so-far is almost 78,000 – more than five times the Soviet toll in Afghanistan which helped collapse the union.
This is the moment a Russian armoured vehicle – believed to be a UR-77 mine-clearer – was hit during a battle with Ukrainian forces and exploded
The blast was so devastating that other vehicles in the same column were able to drive straight through the crater because there was not a single piece of wreckage left over (pictured)
Bakmut sits on a strategic crossroads in Donetsk oblast – one of the two that make up the Donbas – and the Russians have been trying to take it since the summer.
Images from the city show parts of it have been reduced to little more than a cratered moonscape by months of intense combat.
Taking control of the city will make little difference to Russia’s overall war effort, but it is of crucial propaganda value to President Putin and Yevegeny Prigozhin – the leader of Wagner Group, who are tasked with the effort.
Putin claims the overall mission of his war remains the ‘liberation’ of the Donbas.
Russia can claim to have conquered Luhansk oblast – the other region in Donbas – after seizing the cities of Lysychansk and Severodonetsk back in July.
But around half of Donetsk remains in Ukrainian hands. While Russia stands almost no chance of seizing it, continuing to attack Bakhmut at least allows Putin to claim the ‘liberation’ mission is still ongoing.
For Prigozhin, the fact that his troops are still capable of attacking while Russian forces elsewhere have been ground to a halt or forced to retreat allows him bragging rights over Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, his bitter rival.
Prigozhin – an oligarch known as Putin’s chef because one of his companies provides catering for the Kremlin – is now attempting to win himself political influence and power through battlefield success.
A Russian armoured column was advancing along the border between Donetsk and Luhansk when it came under attack by Ukraine, with a tank at the head of the column opening fire
As the convoy advances the second vehicle in the line is struck by some kind of explosive, triggering a huge blast that peppers the surrounding ground with shrapnel
The footage was captured around 20 miles north of Bakhmut, where some of the heaviest fighting of the war is currently taking place
In recent weeks he has publicly acknowledged being Wagner’s boss for the first time and admitted interfering in US elections in an apparent attempt to boost his profile,
He has also opened a huge new office building where Wagner will now be based and unveiled a shiny new logo for the paramilitary group.
There is even speculation that Prigozhin and ally Ramzan Kadyrov – a Chechen warlord who has become increasingly critical of the war effort – could be lining themselves up as successors to Putin should his regime collapse.
On the Ukrainian side, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Tuesday night said his forces would not yield ‘a single centimetre’ in battles in Donbas.
‘The activity of the occupiers remains at an extremely high level – dozens of attacks every day,’ Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address.
‘They are suffering extraordinarily high losses. But the order remains the same – to advance on the administrative boundary of Donetsk region. We will not yield a single centimetre of our land,’ he added.
The region is one of four Russia claimed to have annexed in late September.
A Russian-installed mayor in the town of Snihurivka east of the southern city of Mykolaiv was cited by Russia’s RIA news agency as saying on Tuesday that residents had seen tanks and that fierce fighting was going on.
A Ukrainian artillery gun opens fire on the frontlines near Bakhmut on Tuesday, as Kyiv’s forces hold off attacks from Wagner troops
A Ukrainian artillery gun crew gather around a fire to keep warm between missions firing at Wagner troops attacking the city of Bakhmut
‘They got into (radio) contact during the day and said there were tanks moving around and, according to their information, heavy fighting on the edge of the town,’ the mayor Yuri Barabashov said.
‘People saw this equipment moving through the streets in the town centre,’ he told Russian state newswire RIA.
Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Russian-installed administration in Kherson region, said Ukrainian forces had tried to advance on three fronts, including Snihurivka, according to his Telegram messaging app account.
Vitaly Kim, the Ukrainian governor of Mykolaiv region, strongly suggested that Ukrainian forces had already evicted Russian forces from the area. He quoted what appeared to be a conversation between Russian servicemen.
‘The Russian troops are complaining that they have already been thrown out of there,’ a statement on Kim’s Telegram channel said.
There was no official word on the situation in the town from military officials in either Ukraine or Russia.
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