It’s True. The Russian Army Attacked Ukrainian Positions In Open-Top Golf Carts.

It’s reckless, if not insane, to deploy an open-top, unarmored all-terrain vehicle—in essence, a heavy-duty golf cart—in combat just a quarter mile from the front line.

But two years into Russia’s wider war on Ukraine, Russian commanders are at least reckless if not not insane. Apparently this weekend, a Russian unit—possibly the 488th Motor Rifle Regiment—attacked positions held by the Ukrainian 60th Mechanized Brigade in Yampolivka, in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk Oblast.

A Russian column including what appeared to be MT-LB armored tractors and at least one T-90 tank motored west toward Yampolivka. That itself wasn’t unusual. What was unusual was what else was in the assault group.

Several Desertcross 1000-3 ATVs. The Chinese-made Desertcross is an 85-horsepower ATV. It’s the kind of thing you’d find at a construction site or on a farm. It’s not the kind of thing you’d ride into battle, as it lacks armor and weaponry.

But as Russian vehicle losses exceeded 10,000 late last year, the Kremlin bought 2,100 Desertcrosses for $17,000 apiece—and shipped them off to Ukraine. While it makes sense for Russian regiments to use the ATVs as utility vehicles in rear areas, it doesn’t make sense to load them up with infantry and add them to assault groups.

That’s exactly what some callous Russian commander did this weekend. And with predictable results. As the assault group closed to within a quarter mile or so of the outermost Ukrainian positions, the 60th Brigade peppered the group with cluster shells then plucked at it with explosives-laden drones.

When the smoke cleared, the T-90 and several Desertcrosses lay wrecked among a lot of dead Russians.

It’s hard enough for a 51-ton T-90 or 13-ton MT-LB to survive an unsupported daylight dash through an artillery and drone kill-zone. It’s impossible for a 1.5-ton Desertcross.

But when your regiment lacks any other means of transporting infantry to the line of contact, and you’re not terribly worried about casualties, you might risk it. And that’s how we make sense of the senseless decision to roll a bunch of golf carts into battle.

Russia’s unrelenting attacks all along the front line since last fall—attacks that have cost it thousands of vehicles—might create the impression that the Kremlin has equipment to spare.

It does not. The nearly half-million-strong Russian force in Ukraine has been losing at least 500 tanks and fighting vehicles a month for several months, according to Oryx. And with Russian industry struggling to produce more than 400 new BMP infantry fighting vehicles and around the same number of new T-72 or T-90 tanks every year, the balance—thousands of fighting vehicles and tanks—must come from Russia’s stocks of ex-Soviet vehicles, left over from the Cold War.

These stocks by definition are finite. And if the current rate of loss continues, the Kremlin could run out of tanks and BMPs in the next 18 months. Which explains, if not justifies, some Russian colonel’s decision to pile infantry onto open-top ATVs and send them into combat behind his regiment’s last few armored vehicles.

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