The first US Abrams tanks have arrived in Ukraine, bolstering its military with advanced gear.
The tanks could be an important weapon in Ukraine's counteroffensive.
Russia propaganda made a comical claim in early 2023 to have destroyed an Abrams before any arrived.
The first US M1 Abrams tanks have arrived in Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Monday, in time to take part in Ukraine's intensifying counteroffensive.
The tanks have long been among the most effective pieces of US military equipment and are significantly more advanced than some of the Soviet-era models deployed by the Russian and Ukrainian militaries.
They're fitted with tough armor, 120mm armour-piercing depleted-uranium rounds, and sophisticated communications and targeting equipment. Their powerful jet engines enable them to operate in the toughest terrain and conditions.
Such is their reputation that Russia appeared intent on undermining them before they even arrived.
On pro-Kremlin Telegram channels earlier this year, jubilant posts said the Russian military had blown up Abrams tanks in battle and boasted that they "burn like matches."
Disinfo Detector, a Ukrainian site that monitors Russian propaganda, said at the time that "the US Army M1 Abrams battle tank has not yet been delivered to Ukraine and therefore cannot 'burn like a match' during military operations against the Russian occupiers."
The Ukrainian outlet Nexta also joined in the mockery with a post in January, eight months before the tanks arrived:
—NEXTA (@nexta_tv) January 21, 2023
US President Joe Biden in January pledged the delivery of the tanks to Ukraine, but it took time to both physically get them there and train Ukrainians to use them.
The training was projected to take a year, but many of the soldiers mastered the equipment quicker than expected, CBS News reported.
The tanks' use of depleted-uranium ammo, which can pierce tank armor, is controversial because of links to cancers and birth defects in the zones where it's been deployed. The UN website says the health effects depend on factors such as route and magnitude of exposure.
This was another feature of the weapons that Russian propagandists seized on in a bid to undermine them, Reuters reported.
The tanks have arrived in time to be used in Ukraine's intensifying counteroffensive, with the Ukrainian military seeking to exploit a recent breach in Russia's defensive lines in Zaporizhzhia.
But Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine's military intelligence, told a US defense website last week the tanks would have to be deployed "in a very tailored way, for very specific, well-crafted operations," or risk being destroyed.
Russia has used Ka-52 helicopters, fitted with tank-busting missiles, to destroy Ukrainian armored vehicles and prevent them from breaching its defenses during the counteroffensive.
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