The first American-made Abrams tanks are now rolling out on Ukrainian soil as Ukraine’s forces claimed to have dealt a significant blow to the leadership of Russia’s fleet in the Black Sea.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy confirmed the arrival of the tanks on the Telegram messaging app: “Good news from Minister (of Defense Rustem) Umerov. Abrams are already in Ukraine and are being prepared to reinforce our brigades.”
He did not specify the number of tanks that have been delivered.
They are the first of 31 M1 Abrams tanks promised by the Biden administration, and come months ahead of initial estimates. They join tanks already deployed by NATO partners, including German-made Leopards and Britain’s Challengers, which arrived last spring.
They are the latest heavy weapons sent by the United States as Ukraine continues to grind out a punishing counteroffensive to penetrate defenses in Russian-held territory in the south and east of the country.
It’s a fight that has been costly on both sides of the war — not just in terms of equipment but in staggering troop losses — without much significant territorial progress by Ukrainian forces.
Ukrainian special operation forces claimed Russia’s latest loss is the commander of its Black Sea fleet in an attack on its headquarters on the occupied peninsula of Crimea on Friday.
Officials claim commander Viktor Sokolov was killed along with 33 other senior officers.
At the Pentagon, a U.S. official said that while there is no hard confirmation of Sokolov’s death, it appears the fleet commander has been killed, CBS News’ David Martin reports.
So far, there has been no response from Moscow about the claim. But, if true, it would be a huge blow to the Russian war machine — not just the death of one of the country’s highest-ranking officers, but one of the boldest attacks yet on Russian-occupied territory far beyond the battlefields of Ukraine itself.
As for the Abrams tanks, Washington had been reluctant to send them to the battlefields of Ukraine amid concerns the move would escalate tensions with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
And yet U.S. officials confirmed to Martin that the Biden administration promised Zelenskyy the delivery of long-range missiles topped with cluster munitions, known as ATACMS — Army Tactical Missile Systems. They have a range of up to 190 miles and can be launched from the HIMARS mobile rocket launchers already in use by the Ukrainian military.
The missiles will allow Ukraine to strike at Russian supply lines and command posts well beyond the front lines, the kind of reach the military has already proven capable of carrying out.
SOURCE: CBS news