Ukraine appears to have punched through Russia's anti-tank defenses, reports said.
Troops seem to have used armored vehicles to get past trenches and "dragon's teeth" defenses.
Ukraine is starting to exploit gaps in Russia's so-called "Surovikin Line."
Ukraine appears to have punched through Russia's formidable anti-tank traps and "dragon's teeth" defenses in a significant advance, multiple war analysts have said, reacting to footage that appeared to show Western-made Stryker and Marder infantry fighting vehicles pushing past Russian defenses.
The reported armor advances mark a notable development for Ukrainian forces fighting in the southern Zaporizhzhia region. They have found momentum in recent weeks with small territorial gains, and have managed to put pressure on Russia's tough defensive lines.
George Barros, a lead geospatial intelligence analyst with the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), shared a video on social media on Thursday that appeared to show the Ukrainian armor advances.
Ukrainian forces have brought heavy equipment (Strykers and Marders) beyond the anti-vehicle ditch and the dragons teeth for the first time.
Ukrainian forces have been widening their breach of the lines for the past several weeks and may be preparing for a new push. https://t.co/k4mFWGUMAk pic.twitter.com/K0995dHYQc
— George Barros (@georgewbarros) September 20, 2023
Barros geolocated the assault near the southern village of Verbove, which is one direction where Kyiv's troops have been pushing. He said, crucially, footage showed the vehicles behind Russia's fearsome defenses meant to keep heavy vehicles out.
"We are not yet prepared to say that Ukraine has broken through this portion of the Russian line since these vehicles have not yet penetrated the last visible prepared defensive positions in the area," ISW wrote in a thread on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
"But," ISW continued, "the ability to bring armored vehicles to and through the most formidable Russian defenses intended to stop them and to operate them near prepared Russian defensive positions is an important sign of progress in the Ukrainian counteroffensive."
The ISW commentary noted that the footage demonstrated how Ukraine's breach of the Russian defensive lines was big enough to allow the armored vehicles to move forward, and suggested that Kyiv has managed to contain Moscow's artillery and other anti-vehicle measures.
ISW has observed a significant inflection in western #Zaporizhia Obl:
Ukrainian forces are for the first time confirmed to be operating armored vehicles (Stryker & Marder infantry fighting vehicles) beyond the Russian anti-tank ditch and dragon’s teeth obstacles near #Verbove.🧵 https://t.co/ZlX90zSWee pic.twitter.com/JZWGxDmCT7
— ISW (@TheStudyofWar) September 21, 2023
Barros said Ukraine had been working on breaching the line for "the past several weeks" and "may be preparing for a new push."
"These small tactical steps may be the start of a larger and more significant advance," ISW said in its thread, but it cautioned "it is too soon to make confident forecasts."
Rob Lee, a defense analyst, also shared commentary about the video, and said that it seemed to show Ukraine's elite 82nd Air Assault Brigade. This brigade, which is made up of 2,000 troops, had previously been held in reserve but joined the counteroffensive efforts in August.
Insider was unable to independently verify the video or which unit had managed to move armor past some of Russia's defenses.
Ukrainian infantry had managed to advance along the so-called "Surovikin Line" in recent weeks, although Kyiv had previously been unable to bring its armored vehicles forward due to the complex obstacles.
The Surovikin Line, which is spread across occupied territory in southern and eastern Ukraine, is a complex system of Russian defensive fortifications and obstacles that include anti-vehicle ditches, concrete pyramids known as "dragon's teeth," and trenches. The Stryker and Marders appear to be the first case of heavy armor advancing past the counter-vehicle measures.
US-made Stryker armored fighting vehicles are versatile eight-wheeled systems that were sent to Ukraine earlier this year. German Marder infantry fighting vehicles, which resemble light tanks and can carry up to six people, were delivered several months later.
Earlier this month, Ukraine said its forces had liberated the village of Robotyne, which sits is on a network of roads leading to Melitopol, in another significant breakthrough against Russian forces.
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