Russia’s most advanced T-14 Armata main battle tanks have been deployed to fight Ukrainian troops, RIA Novosti news agency reported on Tuesday, citing a source. The news comes as Kiev is planning a decisive push against Moscow’s forces.
“The Russian forces have begun to use the newest Armata tanks to fire at Ukrainian positions,” the source said, adding that the tanks “haven’t participated in direct assault actions yet.”
The Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics voted to become part of Russia in September 2022. Both regions broke away from Ukraine in the wake of the 2014 coup in Kiev.
In February, a video was posted on social media that purportedly showed a T-14 firing its 125mm gun “in the zone of the special military operation [in Ukraine].”
Konstantin Sivkov, Vice-President of the Russian Academy of Rocket and Artillery Sciences, told news website URA.ru on Tuesday that the T-14 will be primarily pitted against the British Challenger 2 and German-made Leopard 2A6 models that were pledged to Kiev by NATO countries.
“The Armata surpasses both of these newest Western tanks in terms of technical characteristics,” Sivkov said. He added that the T-14 can operate as “a command (center)” in a group of Russian T-90M tanks.
The T-14 was unveiled to the public in 2015 and first saw combat in Syria, where Russian forces are supporting President Bashar Assad’s fight against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) and other Islamist militants.
The news of the deployment of T-14s comes as Kiev prepares to launch a counteroffensive. “We are approaching a crucial battle for the modern history of Ukraine,” Kirill Budanov, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence, told news agency RBC Ukraine on Monday. “It’s a fact, everyone understands this. When [exactly] it begins is a secret.”
Ukrainian officials said in the past that the success and timetable of offensive operations depend on the delivery of heavy equipment from abroad, including modern tanks. According to leaked Pentagon documents that were discovered this month by news organizations, nine Ukrainian brigades were being trained and equipped in the West, and three more were being prepared “internally” in Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said last year that Moscow would defend its territory “by all available means.” The Kremlin stated this month that Russia was closely monitoring information about Kiev’s offensive plans and capabilities.