This is How Ukraine Killed 100+ Russian Tanks so Fast in Vuhledar

Wes O'Donnell
5 min readMay 31
Photo by Dmitry Bukhantsov on Unsplash

Across the span of three weeks, the Ukrainian city of Vuhledar became a killing ground for Russian armor. In that time alone, Russia lost over 140 battle tanks and armored vehicles.

Since Russian military doctrine relies heavily on massed tank and artillery combat, this loss was a severe psychological blow to the Russian armed forces.

Now that some of the ‘fog of war’ has lifted, we can see that this tank massacre was the result of a combination of two main factors: some brilliant tactical thinking on the part of the Ukrainians and Russian tank crews and commanders who had no experience with armored warfare.

Let’s analyze the action and see how Ukraine might duplicate its victory in other parts of the country.

Vuhledar sits about 40 miles southeast of Donetsk along the pre-invasion line that divides Ukraine and the illegitimate Donetsk People’s Republic.

Because of its location, Vuhledar would be a valuable waypoint for Russia as they attempt to push west.

At the end of January, Russia began shelling Ukrainian positions in Vuhledar — this would represent the start of their three-week siege to try and take the city.

Shortly after, Russia sent in its first tanks in single-file columns. By the way, this is the same formation they used in their disastrous assault on Kyiv last year. At the time, this column formation allowed Ukrainian defenders hidden in the tree line to attack Russian tanks with Javelins costing the Russians hundreds of armored vehicles.

I’ve written before about the importance of the debrief or after-action report, which allows military units to learn from past mistakes. Not only that, but fierce competition between Russian units prohibits information sharing, there are no unified rules of engagement, and the Russian military has no unified chain of command.

Obviously, Russian commanders didn’t get the memo since they repeated the same disastrous tactics from their assault on Kyiv in Vuhledar.

Vuhledar occupies higher ground which gives the Ukrainians a clear field of fire, but it’s how Ukraine used the terrain to their advantage that’s key here.

Wes O'Donnell

Army & Air Force Veteran | Global Security Wonk for War is Boring, GEN, OneZero, Soldier of Fortune | Law Student | TEDx Speaker | Founder of Warrior Lodge