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The Russian weaponry being used to attack Ukraine

Damaged radar arrays and other military equipment at a Ukrainian base outside Mariupol on Feb. 24, 2022. (Sergei Grits/AP)
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Russia’s assault on Ukraine has produced a flood of social media imagery in its opening hours, purporting to illustrate the aftermath of initial clashes and missile strikes targeting Ukrainian military facilities.

The Russian Defense Ministry said Thursday that in addition to its airstrikes and missile attacks, some ground forces had advanced into Ukraine from Crimea. Thus far, more than 80 Ukrainian military targets have been destroyed, Russian officials claimed.

Here’s an early assessment of the military hardware and weaponry being employed:

Ground vehicles

Russian tanks and armored vehicles appear to have faced some resistance. In the northeast town of Glukhov, near the Russian border, a “column” of T-72 tanks was destroyed by U.S.-supplied Javelin antitank missiles, according to a Ukrainian government statement on social media showing a Russian tank on fire. Officials did not provide further evidence of what had transpired.

Other videos purport to show tank turrets blown from the tanks’ hulls.

Numerous photos and videos claiming to be from inside Ukraine also show Russian military vehicles painted with identifiers intended to help avoid friendly-fire incidents.

Aircraft

As it encircled Ukraine in recent weeks, the Russian military brought forward an array of aircraft capable of firing guided air-to-ground missiles or dropping “dumb” munitions such as cluster or fragmentation bombs.

A senior U.S. defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the Pentagon, said Thursday that early U.S. assessments show that approximately 75 fixed-wing Russian bombers were involved in initial airstrikes throughout Ukraine, focusing primarily on degrading Ukraine’s air defenses, ammunition warehouses and airfields.

A mix of nearly two dozen attack and transport helicopters assaulted the Hostomel airfield outside Kyiv, the Ukrainian military said. Video purportedly showing Mi-8 helicopters circulated on social media, and the Ukrainian military posted video of one enemy aircraft that had crashed into a field.

Video shared on social media Feb. 24 showed helicopters and smoke rising over Hostomel, Ukraine, as Russia began its country-wide attack. (Video: Twitter)

Russian military forces also have appeared to prioritize critical infrastructure, using air power to target a thermal power plant near Kyiv, Ukrainian officials said.

Heavy artillery

Russia’s artillery-heavy military had been expected to draw from the weapons it has assembled around Ukraine’s border, employing short-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and high-power artillery to knock out military and government targets, observers have said.

Thus far, Russian forces have launched more than 160 missiles into Ukraine, mainly short-and medium-range ballistic weapons, the senior U.S. defense official told reporters Thursday. Russia also appears to have employed cruise missiles, surface-to-air missiles and sea-launched missiles, the official said.

Ground troops

Ukraine’s official government channels also distributed imagery purporting to show captured Russian soldiers, including Russian intelligence operatives allegedly detained in the northern Chernihiv region. The highway there is a strategic vein linking Kyiv to Ukraine’s shared border with Belarus and Russia. The Washington Post was unable independently to verify the imagery.

Other unverified photos claiming to show captured Russian soldiers suggest that some are only modestly equipped. In one video circulated by the Ukrainian armed forces, two Russian soldiers allegedly were detained carrying aging AK-type rifles without any advanced optics or infrared lasers, which are common for conventional military forces.

The images also showed bayonets that could date back years to the Soviet era and red tape around their arms and legs, possibly to identify them as friendlies to other Russian troops.

Karoun Demirjian, Shane Harris, Dan Lamothe, Joyce Sohyun Lee and Missy Ryan contributed to this report.

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