The Ukrainian army appears to be forming a new mechanized infantry unit. The unit’s equipment, training and location—all evident in an official promotional video—are worth noting.
The unit is training on mostly donated equipment: ex-Polish T-72M1 tanks, ex-Dutch YPR-765 armored personnel carriers and ex-British and ex-Turkish infantry equipment.
It’s rehearsing combined-arms operations mixing tanks, APCs and artillery. And it’s doing it in Kryvyi Rih, just north of Russian-occupied Kherson in southern Ukraine.
Kherson with its vital seaport was one of the first Ukrainian cities Russian forces seized after rolling north from occupied Crimea on Feb. 24. Liberating Kherson is a top priority in Kyiv.
While Ukrainian forces are counterattacking along the southern front, they’re not yet driving straight for Kherson. A lack of fresh heavy forces could explain why. One of the only undamaged Ukrainian formations in the southern sector, the reserve 5th Tank Brigade, is part of the defensive garrison in Odesa, Ukraine’s most important seaport, 75 miles west of Kherson.
If the 5th Tank isn’t going to ride east to jumpstart a Kherson counteroffensive, Ukrainian commanders in the sector are going to have to draw heavy forces from somewhere else. The Kryvyi Rih training video is a hint that those forces already are forming.
The video, which circulated on social media starting around May 12, depicts Colonel-General Oleksandr Syrsky, head of the Kyiv’s ground forces, observing Ukrainian army soldiers—many of them young and obviously inexperienced—practicing small-unit tactics with a mix of donated and Ukrainian vehicles.
Troopers wearing Turkish-style body armor and British-style helmets disembark from YPR-765s, which are Dutch variants of the classic American M-113 APC. Tank crews fire the 125-millimeter main guns of their uprated T-72M1s. Poland has pledged more than 200 of these T-72s to Ukraine as part of a larger arms package.
Artillery gunners maneuver and fire their 2S1 self-propelled 122-millimeter howitzers and 2A36 towed 152-millimeter howitzers. These at least aren’t unusual. Both types are standard across the Ukrainian armed forces.
It’s an eclectic mix of weaponry, overall—and it speaks to the wide range of foreign support for Ukraine’s armed forces, as well as those forces’ growing need for weaponry as tens of thousands of reservists complete their training and form new units.
A brigade riding in a mix of Polish, Dutch and Ukrainian vehicles is likely to run into logistical problems as maintainers struggle to source a frankly bizarre mix of spare parts.
But coherent training is more important than a coherent table of organization and equipment is, as the Russian army repeatedly has demonstrated in its own faltering Ukraine campaign.
Russian units use Russian weapons, across the board. But that materiel simplicity hasn’t helped the Russians to cross a river while under fire, safeguard their command posts or sustain a local attack over a distance of more than a few miles.
It’s unclear which unit the training video depicts. The videographers obviously took pains not to show the trainees’ unit patches. It’s possible it’s a new reserve brigade. It’s equally possible the brigade is preparing to roll south in order to join an older reserve unit, the 60th Infantry Brigade, which has been fighting the Russians around Kherson since early in the current war.
The timing of that deployment is critical. The arrival of a fresh mechanized brigade with a hundred tanks plus APCs, artillery and infantry could be the trigger for a more determined Ukrainian counteroffensive.