Motorcycles and chaos in eastern Ukraine

Related media – Associated media

Russian soldiers on motorcycles have introduced a chaotic new element to the fighting in Eastern Ukraine, frequently using motorcycles, dirt bikes, quad bikes, and dune buggies to cross open, exposed spaces quickly.

Lt. Mykhailo Hubitsky described these assaults: “They moved fast, spread out, and swerved.” These unconventional vehicles are now so common that Ukrainian trenches often overlook scrap yards of abandoned and exploded all-terrain vehicles.

Moscow’s forces aim to make small tactical gains, often just a few hundred meters. Despite the high risk, these motorcycle assaults help Russian forces cross minefields while being watched by drones and under artillery fire. Motorcyclists abandon their bikes upon reaching Ukrainian trenches and engage in close combat on foot.

Capt. Yaroslav of the 80th Air Assault Brigade acknowledges the intensity of the fight: “We are fighting a war on every meter.” Russia remains on the offensive, close to supply lines and strategically important cities in the Donbas region.

After capturing Bakhmut in May 2023, Russian advances have been slow but steady. They now threaten key supply routes like the Pokrovsk-Kostyantynivka highway. This adds urgency to the fighting, as controlling this route would slow the flow of essentials to Ukrainian forces.

The Russian advance also endangers Toretsk and New York. Authorities have hastily evacuated civilians amid heavy shelling. Inside these cities, Russian artillery shelling has left streets deserted and homes ruined.

Evacuations are rapid, with residents given minutes to leave their homes. Alina Olyak, a 69-year-old retired nurse, described the conditions as “Boom, boom, boom.” The van that evacuated her was destroyed the next day by a Russian rocket.

As the Russian army advanced, it experimented with various tactics. Motorcycle assaults, though highly dangerous for soldiers, solve the challenge of crossing open fields under surveillance and artillery fire. These fast vehicles are harder to hit than armored ones, though they offer no protection against machine gun fire.

“They jump out and start shooting,” said Sapsan, a sergeant with the 47th Mechanized Brigade. The new tactic has caused significant casualties but hasn’t replaced Russia’s heavy reliance on artillery.

In summary, Russia’s use of motorcycles and other fast vehicles adds a dangerous and unpredictable element to the conflict, aiming for small but critical territorial gains in a heavily contested and mined battlefield.

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