Pushing into the third week of the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, the whole world witnessed how the Russian Armed Forces have stumbled and bumbled into a seeming stalemate with Ukraine, which experts predicted would fall in mere days. The invasion was conducted with an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 Russian troops, attempting to advance into various Ukrainian cities accompanied by tanks, armored vehicles, and artillery.
So far, their campaign has not gone well, to say the least. They have allegedly sustained casualties of 12,000 troops, and lost over 57 aircraft and helicopters, 353 tanks, and 1,165 armored personnel carriers, according to Ukrainian media (the numbers differ when compared to Russian sources and independent monitoring sites). While these numbers may be off, they can’t be way off given the lack of progress of the Russian army so far. Taking these kinds of casualties would stall an invasion pretty quick.
SOFREP has attributed the Russian army’s lack of success so far too poor operational planning (not accounting for weather) that relegates them to use the roads, too few troops, logistics issues, lack of coordination and communications, as well as a general lack of morale among the Russian troops with numerous reports of soldiers sometimes walking away from armed and fueled tanks and vehicles and surrendering to the Ukrainians.
Obliterating Russian Tanks
With Russia being the 5th largest army in the entire world with over 900,000 active servicemen, 13,000 tanks, 20,000 armored fighting vehicles, 1,300 military aircraft, 500 helicopters, and 6,000 artillery pieces, many thought that Ukraine would fold up like a lawn chair. Its own 196,600 active military personnel along with 900,000 reservists, thousands of local volunteers, and international fighters have so far successfully reduced Russian advances into Ukraine to a snail’s pace, resulting in Putin shelling civilian areas indiscriminately in what seems to be a fit of spite and impotence.
With all of the videos of shelling, explosions, gunfire, and general warfare being posted online through various social media platforms, it would be safe to say that majority of the general public has seen photos or videos of Russian tanks being pulled away by farmers on their tractors, or even civilians driving away with tanks and armored vehicles and selling them online.
If you’re a serious military observer, then you must have been busy tracking all of the military movements from both sides, perhaps taking note of casualties on both sides, as well as monitoring all active units involved in the war through independent online sources.
As the video below and others like it show, Ukrainian forces have been very successful in slipping into the rear areas of the Russian advance and ambushing convoys of tanks, trucks, and fighting vehicles to prevent them from reaching the front.
Much has been said about the Russian tank units in Ukraine, with many people, including Ukrainians themselves, fearing the sheer number of main battle tanks ravaging their cities. However, it seems that the Ukrainians are doing fairly well with defending against missiles. They were so successful in using their western-supplied Javelin anti-tank guided missile system (FGM-148 Javelin) and Next Generation Light Anti-tank Weapon (NLAW) anti-tank weapons that a cult following has developed within the general public.
These weapons have been so praised and prized by the Ukrainian Armed Forces that a “St. Javelin of Ukraine” was created on social media depicting a Christian Mary Magdalene holding the weapons. More so, the Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drones have also helped destroy large amounts of armored vehicles, with a song written for it by Ukrainians.
According to independent military tracker Oryx, Russia has lost over 65 tanks, with 85 units captured by Ukrainians, 38 abandoned, and two damaged. Here’s a summary of the listed statistics for Russian tanks:
- 1 T-64BV captured
- 1 T-64BV damaged
- 2 T-72A destroyed
- 5 T-72A captured
- 9 T-72B destroyed
- 2 T-72B damaged (1 damaged and abandoned)
- 5 T-72B abandoned
- 17 T-72B captured
- 1 T-72B Obr. 1989 destroyed
- 2 T-72B Obr. 1989 abandoned
- 1 T-72B Obr. 1989 captured
- 3 T-72B3 destroyed
- 1 T-72B3 damaged
- 2 T-72B3 abandoned
- 3 T-72B3 captured
- 23 T-72B3 Obr. 2016 destroyed
- 4 T-72B3 Obr. 2016 abandoned
- 21 T-72B3 Obr. 2016 captured
- 1 T-80BV destroyed
- 2 T-80BV abandoned
- 4 T-80BV captured
- 6 T-80U destroyed
- 13 T-80U abandoned
- 20 T-80U captured
- 1 T-80UK abandoned and destroyed
- 3 T-80BVM destroyed
- 1 T-80BVM abandoned
- 7 T-80BVM captured
- 7 T-90A destroyed
- 3 T-90A abandoned
- 6 T-90A captured
- 6 Unknown tanks destroyed
- 1 Unknown tank damaged
- 2 Unknown tanks abandoned
With these numbers in mind, here are the Russian army units that seem to be taking the brunt of the beating right now trying to advance into Ukraine. Here’s what we managed to dig up. As a primer, the Guards Divisions of the Russian army constitute the bulk of their offensive strike capability. Their ranks are not filled by conscripts serving a single year in uniform but by professional soldiers serving contracts of three years or longer. They are generally equipped with the most modern weapons the Russian state can offer.
Guard’s Armies are built around the tank, armored fighting vehicles, artillery, and helicopter gunships. Their role would be to smash through enemy defenses creating a gap that infantry units can then rush into and expand on by pushing on its flanks. The armored formations would then fan out in the rear of the enemy army to encircle them and cut them off, forcing either their surrender or annihilation. To be employed effectively, a Guards Tank Division needs to advance over open ground to maximize its frontal firepower and maneuverability, so being stuck on roads severely limits its abilities as a fighting unit. The Mechanized Infantry that travels with the tanks in armored personnel carriers is employed as shock troops to fight infantry encountered at the breach and to take and hold positions until follow-up infantry units arrive. Some of the problems the Russian army is having in Ukraine are probably related to the training of this type of infantry which as a matter of doctrine does not go very far from their tracked vehicle, staying within 50 yards of it to protect it and to be covered by its cannon and heavy machine guns in a fight. With Ukrainian forces employing Javelins that can reach out a mile, you see the problem. If attacked on a road, Russian tanks can’t go off-road in pursuit for fear of being bogged down in the mud and the mechanized infantry with them will not go more than 50 yards from their APCs. The more Russia advances into Ukraine, the more infantry they have to leave behind to secure towns and cities and their routes of supply.
And they don’t appear to have enough troops to do that.
1st Guards Tank Army
The 1st Guards Tank Army is one of the more famed divisions in the Russian Ground Forces as Vladimir Putin reassembled it to neutralize threats from Baltic countries. Historically, they were known for obliterating the Nazis’ 1st Panzer Division in World War II. They played a vital role in the Battle of Kursk and fought in (ironically) Ukraine, Poland, and Berlin.
Today, this army is composed of the 60th Command Brigade, 2nd Guards Motor Rifle ‘Tamanskaya’ Division, 4th Guards Tank ‘Kantemirovskaya’ Division, 47th Tank Division (formerly the 6th Tank ‘Częstochowa’ Brigade), 27th Guards Motor Rifle’ Sevastopol’ Brigade, 112th Guards Missile’ Novorossiysk’ Brigade, 288th Artillery’ Warsaw’ Brigade, 49th Missile Air Defense Brigade, 96th ISTAR Brigade, 20th NBC Defense Regiment, and 69th Logistics Brigade.
It was formerly commanded by Maj. Gen. Alexander Chaiko. Now, it is led by Lt. Gen. Sergei Aleksandrovich Kisel. It has around 35,000 to 50,000 soldiers with 500 to 600 tanks, 600 to 800 infantry vehicles, and 300 to 400 artillery units. These tanks are known to be T-72B3s and T-80 tanks (equipped with 9M119 Refleks anti-tank guided missile systems), BPM-2 light-armored amphibious combat vehicles that are armed with 30mm automatic cannons. It is notably known to be the first unit to receive the more modern and advanced T-14 Armata tank.
According to satellite images and intelligence reports, the 1st Guards Tank Army had been seen operating in the cities of Trostyanets, Lebedyn, Shadurka, Bobryk, and Chupakhivka, along with the 4th Guards Tank Division.
4th Guards Tank Division
The 4th Guards Tank Division (formerly the 17th Tank Corps, renamed in 1943), also known as the Kantemirovskaya Order of Lenin Red Banner Tank Division, is part of the 1st Guards Tank Army and is known as one of the more elite armored divisions of the Russian Ground Forces. The division is headquartered in Naro-Fominsk (40 miles west of Moscow) and reportedly has two tank regiments and one motor rifle regiment with an organic air defense regiment for divisional level air defense support. It is notably known for being in constant battle readiness. It was said that this division was always ready to be deployed at any time, with its manpower always at 80% and its equipment holdings at 100%. Its unit size is around 12,000 to 14,000 and is led by Major General Vladimir Zavadsky. The division operates around 320 T-80U, T-80BV, T-80UK tanks, an unknown number of T-72B3s, some 130 2S3 Akatsiya, and 2S19 MSTA-S self-propelled howitzers, 12 BM-21 Grad MRLS, and 300 BMP-2s.
47th Guards Tank Division, 1GTA
47th Guards Tank Division was seen in Romny Raion operating T-72B3Ms. As per CNA’s Michael Kofman, the 47th Tank Division was created from the 6th tank brigade from Mulino; thus, it is relatively new, having been created last January 2022.
2nd Guards Motor Rifle Division, 1GTA
The 2nd Guards Motorized Rifle Division, otherwise known historically as the Tamanskaya (Taman) Motorized Rifle Division, was established as the 127th Rifle Division in Kharkiv, Ukraine, in 1940. It is known as the elite division of the Russian Ground Forces as it was extremely decorated during World War II. It is currently based in the Western Military District, in the town of Kalininets, Moscow Oblast (31 miles west of Moscow), as part of the 1st Guards Tank Army. It reportedly has two motor file regiments, one tank regiment, and artillery and air defense regiments.
It reportedly has around 12,000 soldiers, utilizing the T-90M, T-80 main battle tanks with BTR-80 armored personnel carriers, as well as BMP-2 and BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles. However, in recent sightings, it was reportedly seen in Sribne, Chernihiv, and Verkhnia Syrovatka, with T-72B3M units and T-90As.
27th Guards Motor Rifle Brigade, 1GTA
27th Guards Motor Rifle Brigade, otherwise known as the 27th Separate Guards Sevastopol Red Banner Motor Rifle Brigade “60th Diamond Jubilee Anniversary of the formation of the USSR was historically known as the 535th Rifle Regiment formed in the city of Chuhuiv (now in Ukraine) in 1940. It was later integrated into the 1st Guards Tank Army in 2014 and is now headquartered in Mosrentgen, Novomoskovsky Administrative Okrug of Moscow, led by Dmitry Aksyonov. It was notably seen in Ukraine operating in locations somewhere in between Sumy and Verkhnia Syrovatka using T-90As and 2S3 Akatsiya self-propelled howitzers.
64th Motor Rifle Brigade, 35CAA
The 64th Motor Rifle Brigade was spotted in videos that appear to be near Kyiv using the T-80BVM tanks. The brigade is headquartered at Knyaze-Volkonskoye, Russia, and is part of the Eastern Military District’s 35th Army. Its roots reportedly took place with the 882nd Motor Rifle Regiment, which was converted into a brigade in 2009. They were seen to be operating with the Russian Airborne Forces (VDV). Its size and all its equipment are largely unknown.
31st Guards Air Assault Brigade and 76th Guards Air Assault Division
The 31st Guards Air Assault Brigade, an airborne infantry brigade, was seen to be operating in Hostomel and Irpin, Ukraine, along with the 76th Guards Air Assault Division. It is also known by its official name, “31st Separate Guards Order of Kutuzov 2nd class Air Assault Brigade.” Originally formed in 1998, it had combat experience during the Chechen War, the Russo-Georgian conflict, and the 2014 annexation of Crimea.
It is currently led by Colonel Dmitry Ovcharo of the Southern Military District. Its exact size and equipment are unknown. However, it was seen to be operating various BMD 4M Airborne IFV and BMD-2 Airborne IFV in the aforementioned regions.
The 76th Guards Air Assault Division, on the other hand, is headquartered in Pskov, with its lineage tracing back to the 157th Rifle Division. It spearheaded the 2014 annexation of Crimea and was subsequently awarded the Order of Suvorov by Vladimir Putin. They were deployed to Ukraine during the invasion, reportedly suffering tremendous losses. However, the casualties could not be independently verified.
The division is comprised of the following units:
- Division headquarters
- 175th Reconnaissance Battalion
- 124th Tank Battalion
- 7th Maintenance Battalion
- 656th Engineering Battalion
- 728th Communications Battalion
- 1682nd Logistics Battalion
- 3996th military hospital
- 104th Air Assault Regiment
- 234th Air Assault Regiment
- 237th Air Assault Regiment
- 1140th Artillery Regiment
- 4th Air Defense Regiment
- 242nd Military Transport Aviation Squadron
35th Motor Rifle Brigade, 41st CAA and the 90th Guards Tank Division, 41st CAA (OPCON)
The 41st Army, which was said to be headquartered in Novosibirsk, was deployed to the west to provide support to the Western and Southern Military Districts along with the 55th Mountain Brigade and the 74th Guards Motorized Rifle Brigades. The 41st Army was notably commanded by Major-General Andrei Sukhovetsky, who was the deputy commander, and Major-General Vitaly Gerasimov, who was the army’s first deputy commander serving under Sukhovetsky — both of whom died last week.
It can be remembered that Sukhovetsky was killed via a sniper shot while he had been visiting frontlines in an attempt to regain the momentum of the invasion as the army reportedly was suffering from low morale. However, he was left so exposed on the frontlines of the war that he was shot and killed by Ukrainian operatives.
The exact numbers of the soldiers serving under the 41st CAA are unknown. However, it is comprised of the following:
- 35th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Brigade from Aleysk
- 55th Mountain Motorized Rifle Brigade from Kyzyl
- 74th Guards Motor Rifle Brigade from Yurga
- 119th Rocket Brigade from Yelansky
- 120th Guards Artillery Brigade from Yurga
- 61st Anti-Aircraft Rocket Brigade from Biysk
- 35th Headquarters Brigade from Kochenyovo
- 106th Separate Logistic Support Brigade from Yurga
- 10th Separate NBC Protection Regiment from Topchikha
The 35th Motor Rifle Brigade was tracked operating in Chernihiv with their OBR. 1989 tanks. This specific brigade hails from the Central Military District with the 41st Army stationed in Aleysk in Rostov.
On the other hand, the 90th Guards Tank Division, 41st CAA (OPCON), was also seen in Chernihiv operating their units of T-72A and T-72B tanks. Their garrison is said to be located in Chebarkul, utilizing the aforementioned units: T-72A, T-72B, T-72B3, BMP-2s, BTR-82As, Grad MLRS, TOS-1, 2S12s, and 2S3s. Major General Denis Lyamin currently leads them.
200th Arctic Motor Rifle Brigade, 6th CAA (OPCON)
The 6th Combined Arms Army is from St. Petersburg and comprises nine brigades and regiments. Each brigade was said to have just one tank battalion, with its maneuver forces being the 25th and 138th Motor Rifle Brigades which are based in Pskov and Kamenka. They’re supported by the 9th Artillery Brigade and the 26th Missile Brigade, both from Luga. Experts have said that the 6th CAA is least developed and looks more like a division than a CAA. It is currently led by General-Major Sergey Kuralenko.
The 200th Arctic Motor Rifle Brigade, 6th CAA (OPCON), was spotted in Kharkiv sporting some T-80BVM tanks, 2S3 Akatsiya Self-Propelled Howitzers, and 2K22M1 Tunguska SPAAWs. The units were reportedly part of the war in Donbas and were redeployed to Ukraine, fighting mainly in the Battle of Kharkiv, which saw some of its members being captured. They were previously led by Colonel Denis Kurilo, who died during said battle in Kharkiv. According to journalist Yuri Butusov, he had seen Ukrainian Javelins destroying some 2SK Akatsiyas (and around 30 more vehicles) and saw Kurilo abandoning his soldiers before getting himself killed.
The brigade was operating some 41 T-80BVM main battle tanks, 36 2S19 MSTA self-propelled howitzers, 18 BM-21 Grad MRLS, 9P149 tank destroyers, 9K35 Strela-10s, 9K33 Osa, 2K22 Tunguskas, and some Barnaul-T air defense systems.
Air and Missile Defense Forces, VKS, and 7th Guards Air Assault Division
The Air and Missile Defense Forces, VKS, and the 7th Guards Air Assault Division were spotted operating in Mykolaiv and Bashtanka with their Pantsir-S1 SPAAWs and their BMD-4M Airborne IFV units, respectively. The Air and Missile Defense Forces, led by Lieutenant General Yury Grekhov, is one of three sub-branches that comprise the new Russian Aerospace Forces, with the other two being the Air Force and the Space Forces.
It is comprised of the following:
- 1st Order of Lenin Air Defense and Anti-Ballistic Missile Defense Army (Special Purpose)
- 4th Air Defense Division “Hero of the Soviet Union Lt.-Gen. B. P. Kirpikov” – uses the S-300PM/PS and the S-400)
- 5th Air Defense Division (uses the S-300PM and the S-400)
- 9th Anti-Ballistic Missile Defense Division (Armed with A-135 anti-ballistic missile systems).
The Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) in general were notably criticized by military observers and strategists as they noted that over 300 combat aircraft were stationed nearby northern, eastern, and southern Ukraine and could have been used to weaken the Ukrainian Air Force, but they chose not to. This led the Ukrainian forces to use low-level defensive counter-air (DCA) ground attacks to down Russian helicopters. Specifically, they used SAMs, MANPADS, and Stinger missiles to destroy these Russian attack helicopters with minimal casualties. The lack of air support also led the Ukrainian Bayraktar TB-2 armed UAV to destroy Russian vehicle columns.
On the other hand, the 7th Guards Air Assault Division, which was seen to be operating BMD-4M Airborne IFV units, is known to be one of the most elite guard divisions of the Russian Airborne Troops, which were vital components for the Battle of Mykolaiv. It currently operates an unknown number of 2S9 “Nona” 120 mm self-propelled artillery vehicles, 1В119 reconnaissance, and fire-control vehicles, BMD-1, BMD-2 and BTR-D, anti-aircraft BTR-ZDs, and anti-tank BTR-RDs which are equipped with 9М111 “Bassoon” anti-tank rocket systems. It is currently led by Guards Colonel Anastasia Vladimirovna Shevchuk.
We were also able to determine some MB-21 Grad rocket artillery and T-90s operating in Mariupol. However, we were not able to identify which units they came from. TIGR-M infantry mobility vehicles were also seen in Kharkiv; however, we could not determine what unit they were from.
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