US Abrams battle tanks to play ‘pivotal’ role in Kyiv’s counter-offensive

Ukrainian troops could force their way to the vital Kerch Bridge to Crimea if they breach Russian defences, a former British tank commander declared yesterday.

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon said the arrival of US Abrams battle tanks in the war zone was “really pivotal” to Kyiv’s counter-offensive – and a major psychological boost for Ukrainian troops locked in the battle to reclaim their territory.

Their long-awaited attack has been slower than expected due to Russia lacing the area with mines and boobytraps that need clearing.

De Bretton-Gordon claims the Abrams could break through if supported by long-range missiles.

He said that Vladimir Putin’s hold over Crimea is “less tenable by the day” after Ukrainian special forces strikes, long-range missile attacks and drone assaults.

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The Gulf War veteran said: “The fact that Putin said to [defence minister] Shoigu at the weekend, he’s got four weeks to stop the counter-offensive, one just feels that the deck of cards are beginning to crumble. Once they’re through this defensive line, there’s nothing else really between them and the Kerch Bridge.”

Kyrylo Budanov, head of Ukrainian military intelligence, said the tanks “should be used …for very specific, well-crafted operations. They need to be used in those breakthrough operations, but very well-prepared.”

The US is also to provide a £430million package to protect Ukraine’s energy systems, to save millions from this winter’s cold.

Power firms have been hit heavily by Russia’s invasion, and the funds will help repair badly damaged energy infrastructure.

Large parts of Ukraine are often left without heating and lighting following Russian air attacks on power plants and transformers.

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