Russian vehicle is destroyed in huge explosion in Ukraine’s Donbas

This is the dramatic moment when a Russian mine-clearing vehicle on the Donbas front line was blown up sky-high during a battle with Ukrainian forces.

Drone footage shows a Russian mine clearance vehicle UR-77 undergoing a catastrophic explosion as it advances as part of an armored convoy along the border between Donetsk Oblast and Luhansk Oblast.

The video was captured in early October about 20 miles from Bakhmut, which Wagner mercenaries have tried unsuccessfully to capture, with Kiev saying the heaviest and deadliest fighting takes place around that city.

It surfaced online today as Ukraine claimed the number of Russian troops killed in the war so far is nearly 78,000 — more than five times the Soviet toll in Afghanistan that contributed to the collapse of the union.

This is when a Russian armored vehicle - believed to be a UR-77 mine clearer - was hit during a battle with Ukrainian troops and exploded

This is when a Russian armored vehicle – believed to be a UR-77 mine clearer – was hit during a battle with Ukrainian troops and exploded

The blast was so devastating that other vehicles in the same column were able to drive straight through the crater as there was not a single piece of wreckage left (pictured)

Bakmut is located at a strategic crossroads in Donetsk Oblast – one of two that make up the Donbas – and the Russians have been trying to take it since the summer.

Footage from the city shows that parts of it have been reduced to nothing more than a lunar landscape with craters through months of intense fighting.

Control of the city will make little difference to Russia’s overall war effort, but it is of crucial propaganda value to President Putin and Yevegeny Prigozhin – the leader of the Wagner group, who have been charged with the effort.

Putin claims that the overall mission of his war remains the “liberation” of the Donbas.

Russia can claim to have conquered Luhansk Oblast – the other region in Donbas – after taking the cities of Lysychansk and Severodonetsk in July.

But about half of Donetsk remains in Ukrainian hands. While Russia has almost no chance of seizing it, continuing to attack Bakhmut at least allows Putin to claim that the “liberation mission” is still underway.

For Prigozhin, the fact that his forces are still able to attack while Russian forces elsewhere have been stalled or forced to retreat allows him to boast of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, his bitter rival.

Prigozhin – an oligarch known as Putin’s chef because one of his companies caters to the Kremlin – is now trying to gain political influence and power through battlefield success.

A Russian armored column was advancing along the Donetsk-Luhansk border when it was attacked by Ukraine, with a tank at the head of the column opening fire

As the convoy advances, the second vehicle in line is hit by some type of explosive, causing a massive explosion that sprinkles the surrounding ground with shrapnel

The footage was taken about 20 miles north of Bakhmut, where some of the heaviest fighting of the war is currently taking place.

In recent weeks, he has publicly admitted for the first time that he is Wagner’s boss and has admitted to meddling in the US election in an apparent effort to boost his profile.

He also opened a massive new office building where Wagner will now be located and unveiled a shiny new logo for the paramilitary group.

There is even speculation that Prigozhin and ally Ramzan Kadyrov – a Chechen warlord who has become increasingly critical of the war effort – could line up as Putin’s successors if his regime collapsed.

On the Ukrainian side, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Tuesday evening that his forces would not yield “a single inch” in fighting in Donbas.

“The activity of the occupiers remains at an extremely high level – dozens of attacks a day,” Zelenskiy said in his overnight video address.

“They are suffering extraordinarily high losses. But the order remains the same – to proceed on the administrative border of the Donetsk region. We will not move an inch from our land,” he added.

The region is one of four Russia claimed to have annexed in late September.

A Russian-installed mayor in the town of Snihurivka east of the southern city of Mykolaiv was quoted by Russia’s RIA news agency on Tuesday as saying residents had seen tanks and fierce fighting was underway.

A Ukrainian artillery gun opens fire on the front lines near Bakhmut on Tuesday as Kiev’s forces fend off attacks by Wagner forces

A Ukrainian artillery crew gathers around a fire to keep warm between missions firing on Wagner troops attacking the city of Bakhmut

“They had (radio) contact during the day and said that there were tanks and, according to their information, there was heavy fighting on the outskirts of the city,” Mayor Yuri Barabashov said.

“People saw this equipment moving through the city center streets,” he told Russia’s state news wire RIA.

Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Russian-installed government in the Kherson region, said Ukrainian forces had tried to advance on three fronts, including Snihurivka, according to his Telegram messaging app account.

Vitaly Kim, the Ukrainian governor of the Mykolaiv region, strongly suggested that Ukrainian forces had already expelled Russian forces from the area. He quoted what appeared to be a conversation between Russian soldiers.

“The Russian troops complain that they have already been thrown out there,” said a statement on Kim’s Telegram channel.

There was no official word on the situation in the city from military officials in Ukraine or Russia.