British Challenger tank in Ukraine 'blown up after hitting a Russian mine'

5 September 2023, 21:27

The Challenger 2 tank was destroyed
The Challenger 2 tank was destroyed. Picture: Twitter/Getty

By Kit Heren

A British Challenger 2 tank operating in Ukraine was blown up when it ran over a Russian mine.

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The tank was one of 14 operating in Ukraine as it continues to push back against the Russian invaders.

It becomes the first to be put out of action in the conflict. None of its crew members are thought to have been killed in the explosion.

Videos circulating online show the tank on fire. The incident took place outside Robotyne, in Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia region.

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The Challenger 2s are being used by Ukrainian armed forces for long-distance fire.

The model in question was hit by a mine, and the ensuing explosion caused its fuel tank to catch fire, the BBC reported.

The crew managed to escape, but the empty tank was then targeted by a Russian drone strike.

A defence source told the PA news agency that the crew's survival "highlights the quality of the kit we are giving Ukraine.

"In the tanks Ukraine had at its disposal before Western support, the chances of the crew surviving unscathed were slim to zero."

The Ministry of Defence said it would not be commenting.

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Since the grinding counteroffensive began about three months ago, Ukraine has advanced 4.3 miles in the Zaporizhzhia region, Ukrainian officials claim.

Troops surmounted dense Russian fortifications last week to retake the village of Robotyne.

That was Ukraine's first tactically significant victory in that part of the country.

The Institute for the Study of War, a think tank, citing geolocated footage, said on Tuesday that Ukrainian light infantry has advanced beyond some of the anti-tank ditches and dense minefields that make up Russia's layered defences in Zaporizhzhia.

However, it said it was unable to say that the defence was fully breached because no Ukrainian heavy armour has been seen in the area.

The UK gave the tanks at the start of the year
The UK gave the tanks at the start of the year. Picture: Alamy

Ukraine has adapted its counteroffensive tactics in recent weeks, moving from attempts to bludgeon its way through Russian lines using western-supplied armour to better-planned tactical attacks that make incremental gains, according to the Royal United Services Institute, a think tank.

But even after the change, progress remains slow, the think tank said, with between 700 to 1,200 metres gained every five days.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak signed-off on handing Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy 14 Challenger 2 tanks at the beginning of the year, ahead of the one-year anniversary of the conflict in February, as he looked to boost Kyiv's efforts to push back Russian troops.

The move opened the door to other Western nations handing Ukraine tanks, with Leopard 2 tanks given by Germany and other European countries, while the US donated Abrams.

Defence sources said the war in Ukraine was the first time the Challenger 2 was being tested against modern military equipment.