As the first Abrams tanks started to arrive in Ukraine from the United States, a top Ukrainian general warned that they could be destroyed quickly if not deployed properly.
The U.S. government has pledged to provide the Ukrainian military with 31 M1 Abrams tanks to help in its fight against Russian forces, part of the over $40 billion in military aid that the U.S. has provided the nation since the invasion began in February 2022. Some of Ukraine’s other Western allies have already supplied shipments of different tanks, including the Leopard 2 from Germany and the Challenger 2 from the United Kingdom.
On Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a post on Telegram that some of the pledged Abrams tanks had already begun to arrive in the country months ahead of the initial estimated timetables from the United States.
“Abrams [tanks] are already in Ukraine and are coming to reinforce our brigades,” Zelensky wrote, as translated by Pravda. “I am grateful to our allies for fulfilling the agreements! We are looking for new contracts and expanding the geography of supply.”
In an interview with The Drive published on Friday, Lieutenant General Kyrylo Budanov, chief of the Main Directorate of Intelligence for Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense, said that the tanks being sent by the U.S. needed to be used strategically, as they would be quickly destroyed by Russian forces if deployed straight to the frontlines.
“They should be used in a very tailored way for very specific, well-crafted operations because if they are used at the front line and just in a combined arms fight, they will not live very long on the battlefield,” Budanov said in the interview. “They need to be used in those breakthrough operations, but very well-prepared.”
It is unknown at this time how many tanks have been given to Ukraine so far out of the pledged 31, though an earlier report from Politico claimed that around 10 would be provided initially. The rest of the tanks will be provided in the coming months.
The decision to provide Ukraine with tanks was approved in January. In March, the Pentagon clarified that the U.S. would not be sending the more recent generation of M1A2 Abrams tanks but rather refurbished M1A1 tanks.
In a prior statement to Newsweek, defense writer and military expert Michael Peck said that while the tanks would “add a little more punch to Ukraine’s counteroffensive…31 vehicles aren’t enough to significantly affect the war.”