Ukraine war: 'This is such a stupid tank': Commander's plea for Western upgrades

A Soviet-era T-72 rumbles through woodland belching thick black smoke as it fishtails over the frozen mud near the battered Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.

The tank is old - a relic from a time gone by - but it is nonetheless all the crew of the 24th mechanised brigade have to defend themselves against Russian aggression.

With the whoosh of rockets and thump of artillery reverberating through the copse, the crew explains what they are up against and what they need to end this fight.

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"Tanks were created for supporting infantry, not for defence but for attacking, so for example to liberate our territories we definitely need tanks because it's like a fiery fist and a force to advance," Roman, the company commander, says.

"This one is such a stupid tank - just a simple rocket launcher made a long, long time ago could be a really serious threat to it, but modern tanks are equipped better and they're safer from such types of weapon."

At the beginning of the war, military planners debated whether the time of the tank was over.

But this is a ground war with a line of contact extending for hundreds of miles.

Wherever you look along the front, you can see smoke on the bruised horizon from artillery strikes and the flash from the muzzles of big guns.

We were taken to another position on the frontline where rusty old tanks - mainly donated by Eastern European countries - lurk in the trees.

They are still lethal when locked and loaded but in the face of a sustained Russian assault they are simply no match.

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Ukraine conflict has turned into an attritional fight

Ukraine fears Western fatigue and an everlasting stalemate will sound the death knell for the country.

It has had tactical successes, such as the liberation of Kherson and the Kharkiv regions, but without even greater Western support maintaining operational tempo and initiative will be difficult.

Russian forces are well dug in.

The conflict has turned into an attritional fight across trenches.

And as tanks helped break the deadlock of the western front in the First World War, military planners in Kyiv are hoping to do the same in this conflict more than a century later.

They need protection and manoeuvrability to push their infantry forwards - something only modern western tanks, they argue, can provide.

All the indications are that Moscow is in for the long fight and is planning a major offensive with hundreds of thousands of men in the spring.

But this is about much more than simply holding position.

Vladimir Putin claims a Russian victory is inevitable but Ukraine says with the right equipment it can do far more than hold Moscow back - it can keep pushing forward and win this war.

What they don't understand here is the slowness to commit by some Western countries.

For every day lost, they argue, there's a heavy price paid with Ukrainian blood.