Wagner Wagon: A look inside vehicle known as the ‘Chekan’

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Russian mercenaries are drafting in a new armoured vehicle nicknamed The Wagner Wagon in an apparent response to the West’s plan to supply Ukraine with battle tanks. However, one former British Army officer has said the vehicles are not designed to be used in the war Russia is currently fighting – and even said they resembled “something out of Wacky Races”.

The fighting machine, named after the so-called Wagner Group, regarded as Vladimir Putin’s private army, is billed as mine-resistant and equipped with weaponry including a 4.5mm heavy machine gun with a range of two miles.

Additionally, it carries two PKT 7.62mm belt-fed machine guns which can be used during attacks on frontline infantry troops.

However, Stuart Crawford, a former Lieutenant Colonel in the 4th Royal Tank Regiment, was unconvinced.

He told Express.co.uk: “This reminds me a bit of Dastardly and Muttley in the Wacky Races, to be honest.

“These are designed to counter lightly-armed guerillas and jihadists in a sandy place far away but basically a battlefield taxi not to be used in direct contact in Ukraine. Better than nothing I suppose, but only just.”

Mr Crawford, stressing it was an armoured vehicle as opposed to a tank, explained: “It’s essentially a wheeled armoured personnel carrier.

“It will be more prone to get bogged in soft ground and won’t have the obstacle crossing capability than/of tracked equivalents.

“Its weapons are comparative pea-shooters, and their ammunition will bounce off Ukrainian tanks and infantry fighting vehicles.

“Plus its armour is relatively thin and won’t keep out much, to be honest.”

The vehicle, officially known as the Chekan, was first spotted in Ukraine in June – but now the fighting force, bankrolled by Putin henchman Yevgeny Prigozhin, appears to be drafting in more.

The revelation came on the day German Chancellor Olaf Scholz confirmed his government would provide Ukraine with Leopard 2 battle tanks and approve requests by other countries to do the same.

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The German government said it would initially provide Ukraine with one company of Leopard 2 A6 tanks, or 14 vehicles. The goal is for Germany and its allies to provide Ukraine with 88 of the German-made Leopards, which comprise two battalions.

In a speech, Mr Scholz said: “This is the result of intensive consultations, once again, with our allies and international partners,.

“It was right and it is important that we didn’t let ourselves be driven into making the decision.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed satisfaction at the news.

Several European countries have equipped their armies with Leopard 2 tanks, and Germany’s announcement means they can give some of their stocks to Ukraine.

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The long-awaited decision came after US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, revealed Tuesday a preliminary agreement for the United States to send M1 Abrams tanks to help Ukraine’s troops push back Russian forces that remain entrenched in the country’s east almost a year after Russia invaded its neighbour.

It is not clear when or how the tanks would be delivered to Ukraine, or how soon they could have an impact on the battlefield.

Military analysts believe Russian forces are preparing for a spring offensive.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, which last week confirmed it was sending 14 of Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine, welcomed Germany’s decision to further “strengthen Ukraine’s defensive firepower”

He tweeted: “Together, we are accelerating our efforts to ensure Ukraine wins this war and secures a lasting peace.”

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