The Ukrainian Army appears to be forming a new mechanized infantry brigade. The brigade is training on mostly donated equipment; ex-Polish T-72M1 tanks, ex-Dutch YPR-765 armored personnel carriers and ex-British and ex-Turkish infantry equipment. It’s rehearsing combined-arms operations mixing tanks, APCs and artillery. And it’s doing it in Kryvyi Rih, just north of Russian-occupied Kherson in southern Ukraine. Kherson with its vital seaport was one of the first Ukrainian cities Russian forces seized after rolling north from occupied Crimea on Feb. 24. Liberating Kherson is a top priority in Kyiv.
The 5th Tank Brigade, is part of the defensive garrison in Odesa, Ukraine’s most important seaport, 75 miles west of Kherson. The Kryvyi Rih training video is a hint that those forces already are forming. The 5th Tank Brigaderoopers wearing Turkish-style body armor and British-style helmets disembark from YPR-765s, which are Dutch variants of the classic American M-113 APC. Tank crews fire the 125-millimeter main guns of their uprated T-72M1s. Poland has pledged more than 200 of these T-72s to Ukraine as part of a larger arms package. Many of them young and obviously inexperienced—practicing small-unit tactics with a mix of donated and Ukrainian vehicles.
Poland provides at least 240 T-72 main battle tanks to Ukraine including T-72M1s and a modernized version of the T-72, the T-72M1Rs. The Polish Army has a total of 808 MBTs including 329 T-72A and T-72M1 tanks. The T-72A is the second generation of Soviet-made main battle tank MBT in the T-72 family. The supply of the Polish T-72 tanks to Ukraine will not affect the operational capabilities of the Polish Army, because the Polish Government has officially signed a contract with the United States to acquire 250 American-made M1A2 Abrams SEP V3 tanks with the aim of replacing the old Soviet-made tanks.
YPR-765 is is a Dutch version of AIFV (Armored Infantry Fighting Vehicle). While the US was uninterested in the design, a number of other governments were interested in the vehicle, which was simpler, lighter, and cheaper than the Bradley. In 1975 the country ordered 880 of such machines and then expanded the order to 2,079 armored personnel carriers, 815 of which were assembled in the Netherlands. In 2000, a part of the vehicles was upgraded, and in 2012 they were withdrawn from operational use and replaced by Swedish CV90 infantry combat vehicles. Some 500 YPR-765s are still in storage in the Netherlands, and some of them have already arrived in Ukraine.