A Russian company has offered up to five million rubles ($72,000) in cash to the first soldiers to destroy or capture Western-made tanks in Ukraine after the Kremlin promised that Russian forces would wipe out all Western tanks sent to Ukraine.
The United States, Germany, and other European countries are preparing to send dozens of advanced main battle tanks to Kyiv in the coming months to bolster Ukraine’s military capability as the war enters its first year.
The Kremlin criticized the decision as a dangerous escalation, with spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying the tanks would “burn” at the front.
Now a Russian company, Ural-based Fores, which makes propellants for the energy industry, is offering cash payments to the Russian military that “capture or destroy” German-made Leopard 2 or American-made Abrams tanks.
The company said it would pay 5 million rubles to the first Russian soldier to destroy one of the tanks and 500,000 rubles ($7,200) for all subsequent attacks. Echoing language used by Russian officials and pro-war state television presenters, Fores said NATO was pumping Ukraine with an “unlimited” amount of weapons and escalating the conflict.
He also said he would pay a reward of 15 million rubles ($215,000) for the Western-made fighter jets, should they ever be delivered to Ukraine. The tanks have yet to be shipped to Kyiv, and it could be several months before the bulk of the promised deliveries are shipped.
Since the start of the conflict, the Russian Defense Ministry has claimed to have destroyed hundreds of pieces of Western weaponry. Kyiv has already rejected those claims, noting, for example, that Russia has claimed to have destroyed more US-made HIMARS rocket launchers than were ever delivered to the country.
Previous deliveries of advanced Western weaponry, notably the HIMARS, are credited with turning the tide of the 11-month war, helping kyiv score a series of surprise victories and push Russian forces back from territory captured at the beginning of the invasion.