According to the Ukrainian defense officials, The legendary and “elite” Russian 4th Guards Tank Division, famous in Russian military annals for helping to liberate Poland from Nazi occupation in World War II, has suffered a galling defeat at the hands of the Ukrainian forces, specifically from Ukraine’s 93rd Mechanized Brigade, known as the “Kholodhny Yar,” during the battle of Trostyanets in Sumy some 220 miles from Kyiv and just 15 miles from the Russian border.
The town of Trostyanets had been in the Russian forces’ control in the early onset of the invasion and kept control of the area for 25 days till reports of morale issues among the Russian troops had reached the media. It can be hypothesized that the 4th Guards Tank Division had fallen ill with the lack of food and supplies. This leaves them vulnerable to a counterattack from the Ukrainian forces, which are armed with various anti-tank and anti-armor missiles from its Western allies, such as the Javelin, NLAWs, some Panzerfaust 3s, and their very own ATGM system, the Stugna-P.
The news of the defeat came from the Facebook page of Ukraine’s Kholodhny Yar, the 93rd Mechanized Brigade, where they stated that they had liberated the city of Trostyanets, providing photographic evidence of their victory.
#Ukraine: Further Russian losses in Trostianets: 3x 2B11/2S12 Sani 120mm mortars, 3x more cargo trucks, and a BMP-2. Multiple UAZ vehicles were also lost.
All of this is from the 4th Guards Tank Division, who appeared to have suffered a serious defeat this case. pic.twitter.com/oUfVmRo96i
— 🇺🇦 Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) March 27, 2022
“Today, by the forces of the 93 brigade Cold Yar [Kholodhny Yar], with the help of territorial defense and local partisans, the city of Trostyanets in Sumy region was freed from Russian occupation troops,” their announcement read.
“The Kholodnoyarcâm [Kholodhny Yar] managed to expel [them] from the place of the ‘elite’ of the Russian ground troops – Kantemirivsk tank division. This was overwhelmed by the impact of the team point together with the management team of the 96th Separate Intelligence Brigade in the early days of the defense of Okhtirka and fought for Trostyanets,” the post said through the direct Facebook translation.
A more properly translated version of the statement by The Telegraph paints a better picture of what had happened:
“This was preceded by the defeat of the command post and the leadership of the 96th Separate Reconnaissance Brigade in the first days of the defense of Okhtyrka and the battles for Trostyanets.”
Note that the 4th Guards Tank Division was formerly known as the 17th Tank Corps (renamed in 1943) and is also known as the “Kantemirovskaya Order of Lenin Red Banner Tank Division,” which is where the Ukrainians got the name “Kantemirivsk.”
#Ukraine: More vehicles of the Russian 4th Guards Tank Division, destroyed and abandoned in #Sumy, including a 152mm Msta-S self-propelled howitzer, 1V13 command vehicle, T-80U tank and logistical trucks. pic.twitter.com/eXePfmkT9I
— 🇺🇦 Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) March 1, 2022
What remains of the 4th Guards Tank Division were reported to flee the city to an unknown location leaving their equipment abandoned or destroyed. Despite the reports not being widely reported upon by mainstream media, it is completely plausible that the Ukrainians are telling the truth as the Russian 4th Guards Tank Division was seen to be operating in Sumy as early as March 1. During the first week of the invasion, the so-called elite Russian tank division had suffered destroyed and abandoned tanks and other armored vehicles such as the 152mm Msta-S self-propelled howitzer, 1V13 command vehicle, T-80U tank, and some logistical trucks.
“After a series of setbacks, the Russian army has fled Trostyanets, leaving behind weapons, equipment, and ammunition that the 93rd Brigade will use to liberate other Ukrainian cities from occupation,” the 93rd brigade said.
They also followed this post up by saying that the “Kantemiriv tank division” was defeated and that the commander of the Russian 13[th] tank regiment was dead. They also reported that Lieutenant General Sergey Kisel, who leads the 1st Tank Army of the Western Military District, had been relieved of his duties as they had suffered huge losses during the invasion. According to the 93rd brigade, Kisel was blamed for the loss in Trostyanets and thus was relieved of his duties.
The news of Kisel being removed and the scandal involving the 4th Guards Tank Division was first uncovered by SOFREP Editor-In-Chief Sean Spoonts on March 27. According to reports, only 1 out of 10 main battle tanks of the 4th Guards were battle-ready due to maintenance and supply issues. However, according to Sean Spoonts’ sources, the colonel in charge of the 4th Guards Tank Division is said to have committed suicide instead of being shot dead. Another report by the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine confirms that the commander did commit suicide. There seems to be a conflict with their reports; however, we’ll follow this up as soon as new information about the tank division arises.
An earlier report by SOFREP explained that the 4th Guards Tank Division was one of the more elite armored divisions of the Russians. This division was known to be in “constant battle readiness” and that it could always be deployed at any time. The Russians had also boasted that the division was always at 80% manpower readiness and that its equipment holdings were always at a 100%. This apparently was not the case as they were caught flat-footed by the Ukrainians, which then took advantage of the situation by obliterating the majority of their vehicles and possibly even capturing a number of these tanks that were left behind.
If the 93rd did in fact route the 4th Guards Tank Division it would aptly prove the old military adage that “Tanks can take a town, but can’t hold it.” The difference between a Tank Regiment and a Motorized Infantry Regiment is pretty straightforward. A Tank Regiment has lots of tanks and less infantry whereas a Motorized Infantry Regiment has far fewer tanks but a lot more infantry. In open country, a Tank Regiment has a distinct advantage in terms of mobility and long-range firepower against infantry, but on defense in a town or city, a Tank Regiment will find itself losing those advantages to infantry that can move in close, take up high positions in buildings and knock tanks down like bowling pins if they are equipped with anti-tank guns, or missiles.
A Ukrainian video of the operation can be seen here, possibly for their own propaganda uses against the Russians, which may deal a huge blow to the already low Russian morale.
According to former British Intelligence Colonel Mr. Philip Ingram, “Trostyanets is a town on a significant north-south route between Sumy and Okhtyrka. If Ukraine has control of that road, then you are seriously restricting Russia’s ability to maneuver,” he said to The Telegraph. “The Russians are constrained to the roads, and control of the junctions gives you firing positions straight down them,” he added.
With Russian communications down (they’re allegedly using local sim cards to communicate), a low supply of food, and the Ukrainians attacking their supply trucks, it seems that the tank divisions of Russia are stuck between a rock and a hard place, and it won’t get any better for them sooner or later.
The US will be sending Ukraine additional anti-tank systems, among other weaponry included in its $800 million military aid package, specifically 2,000 Javelins, 1,000 light anti-armor weapons, 6,000 AT-4 anti-armor systems, and 800 Stinger anti-aircraft systems to name a few. The UK is also set to send 6,000 missiles consisting of anti-tank and high explosive weapons together with $33 million worth of financial aid. NATO is also set to boost Ukraine’s ability to withstand chemical and biological weapons attacks through additional equipment.