artillery fire | 

‘The commander’s dead!’ – panic among Russian forces as tanks destroyed in Kyiv

Tanks seen being destroyed on the outskirts of Brovary, Ukraine, in a video screengrab. Photo: Azov/Handout via Reuters

Dominic Nicholls and Pavel PolityukTelegraph Media Group Limited

The fear could be heard on the radio, despite the poor connection. “Commander, the commander’s dead!” the voice said.

The operative receiving the message either could not hear properly or didn’t believe the news that the commander of Russia’s 6th Tank Regiment, reported to be Colonel Andrei Zakharov, a man personally decorated by Vladimir Putin, had been killed.

The second voice asked for the message to be repeated.

“He’s dead,” a shout this time. “The commander’s dead!”

The footage, filmed by a drone and released online by the Ukrainian military’s official channels, showed about 30 Russian tanks and armoured vehicles caught in artillery fire as they attempted to push into Kyiv from the east.

The armoured column had reached the district of Brovary, about 10km from the capital when it was forced to retreat yesterday morning as it was pushed back in a devastating strike from Ukrainian forces.

At least two vehicles were totally destroyed – a personnel carrier and T-72 tank with the others turning around to get out of the contact zone.

The dual carriageway was left blackened by scorch marks and tracks showing the U-turns many of the vehicles had to perform as the high explosive shells rained down.

Defence watchers have criticised the Russian column for displaying poor military tactics. The entire group of vehicles is caught on a main road, possibly as commanders have decided cross-country movement is too risky. Clustered in an area about 146 metres long, the road is easily within range of Ukrainian artillery batteries.

It was yet another example of the surprisingly poor tactics Russia has stubbornly clung to since Putin started the war.

The once-mighty Russian army seems to have stumbled, and is now held up by mud, a lack of fuel and poor planning.

The incident also shows the paucity of Ukrainian assets.

Such an inviting target should have been easy to deal with if the drone operator watching the advance could have spoken directly to artillery units within range.

As it was, the 6th Tank Regiment largely escaped with minimal casualties in terms of men and equipment. Losing their leader will still be a bitter blow. If verified, his death will be the third senior Russian commander killed in the war so far. On the 15th day of the invasion , Russian forces were encircling at least four major cities and inching closer towards the city limits of Kyiv.

Fears are mounting the capital will soon be encircled, with Russian tanks just a few miles north-east of the city.

Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Kyiv, said half the capital’s population has fled.

But he warned that the city is now “a fortress as every street, every building, every checkpoint has been fortified”.

Talks between Ukraine’s and Russia’s foreign ministers yesterday failed to bring any respite in the conflict as hundreds of thousands of civilians remained trapped in Ukrainian cities sheltering from Russian air raids and shelling.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, facing global condemnation for the assault and increasingly isolated, said Russia would emerge stronger after overcoming the difficulties caused by economic sanctions.

He told a government meeting there had been no alternative to what Russia calls its special military operation in Ukraine. “There are some questions, problems and difficulties but in the past we have overcome them and we will overcome them,” he said.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and Ukraine’s Dmytro Kuleba met in Turkey in the highest-level talks since Putin ordered the invasion on February 24.

Mr Kuleba said afterwards that Mr Lavrov had refused to promise to hold fire to allow for the distribution of aid and for the evacuation along humanitarian corridors of hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped in Mariupol and elsewhere.

Aid agencies say humanitarian help is most urgently needed in Mariupol, where residents are running out of food, water and power. Its capture would allow Russia to link up pro-Moscow enclaves .

Attempts to send aid and evacuation convoys have failed for six days.

Mr Lavrov said a maternity hospital struck on Wednesday had stopped treating patients and had been occupied by Ukrainian “radicals”. Russia’s Defence Ministry later denied having bombed the hospital, accusing Ukraine of a “staged provocation” there.

In Brussels, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the hospital attack could constitute a war crime and should be investigated, calling it “inhumane, cruel and tragic”.

Meanwhile, Meta Platforms will allow Facebook and Instagram users in some countries to call for violence against Russian soldiers in the context of the Ukraine invasion, according to emails seen by Reuters, in a change to its hate speech policy.

The social media company is also temporarily allowing some posts that call for death to Putin or Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in countries including Russia, Ukraine and Poland .

“As a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine we have temporarily made allowances for forms of political expression that would normally violate our rules like violent speech such as ‘death to the Russian invaders.’

"We still won’t allow credible calls for violence against Russian civilians,” a Meta spokesperson said in a statement.

The temporary policy changes apply to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, and Ukraine, according to one email. (© Telegraph Media Group Ltd 2022)

Today's Headlines

More World News

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices

WatchMore Videos