The entry of Russian troops, mostly light infantry and reconnaissance troops, into the large Ukrainian city of Kharkov in the morning of Feb. 27 met with many setbacks as the defenders destroyed vehicles and took prisoners.
“Today may have been the worst day for the Russian military in Ukraine so far,” military researcher Rob Lee wrote in a Twitter post that day.
He noted that while the Russians were still advancing, there were a large number of videos showing destroyed or abandoned vehicles on the side of the invaders. He also questioned the use of Spetsnaz special ops forces without heavier backup: “I have no idea why they sent in a small spetsnaz unit into Kharkiv, but it was easily repelled.”
One video shows a destroyed column of Russian “Tigr” armored cars, which are similar to the U.S. Humvee.
Other footage shows Ukrainian servicemen seizing equipment from the Tigrs, as well as Russian soldiers taken prisoner.
Per Russian social media, the Russians made it into much of the northern half of Kharkov. Kupyansk, a district administered by Kharkov, was occupied by the invaders and the local authorities agreed to cooperate with the Russians. A large explosion was seen rising from the tank plant for which the city is famous, and photos show a mushroom cloud above a Ukrainian “military object.”
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Outside Kharkov, fighting remained intense, especially to the northwest near the city of Sumy, where Russian forces lost tanks and other combat vehicles. One photo shows a Russian T-90A tank that was abandoned being destroyed by a Ukrainian soldier with a rocket-propelled grenade.
Other photos show an advanced Russian Tunguska anti-air vehicle abandoned in the vicinity of Kharkov, possibly for want of fuel.
Following on his previous post, Lee observes that the Russians are still making progress in southern Ukraine — where they are close to linking the Crimean and Donbass fronts — but are “making basic mistakes and demonstrating poor small unit competence.”
Moreover, the Russian military’s apparent decision to avoid heavy bombardment of infrastructure and cities has “allowed the Ukrainian military to achieve successes, build momentum, and buy time.”
Columns of heavier vehicles have been detected across the Russian border en route to Kharkov as of Feb 26, including heavy artillery, mortars, thermobaric flamethrower tanks, and other weapons.
Satellite imagery taken Feb. 27 shows large numbers of Russian supply trucks and tanks apparently headed to the city as well.