Heroes of the Zaporozhye clash were honored at the celebration of the WWII victory at Kursk
Russian President Vladimir Putin presented medals on Wednesday to the crew of the T-90 tank that almost single-handedly defeated a Ukrainian company on the Zaporozhye front. The recognition came at the event celebrating the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Kursk, a 1943 triumph over Nazi Germany.
“This well-coordinated tank crew entered into battle against superior enemy forces and accomplished the seemingly impossible – achieved a feat: they not only won the battle, but also saved their comrades whose tank was damaged,” Putin said.
Senior Lieutenant Rasim Baksikov, Junior Lieutenant Alexander Levakov, Corporal Filip Yevseev and Corporal Alexey Neustroyev were presented with the gold-star Hero of Russia medals, the country’s highest state honor. Corporal Ilya Gavrilov, the drone operator who helped guide the artillery fire that helped the tank, was awarded with the Medal of Courage.
Drone footage of the battle, which made its way to social media at the end of July, showed the tank – nicknamed ‘Alyosha’ – sortie against two Ukrainian tanks and several armored vehicles that had attempted to storm a Russian position on the Zaporozhye front.
Though the social media version of the battle described it as a single unsupported tank going up against the entire company, the 127th Motor Rifle Division command later said that ‘Alyosha’ destroyed seven Ukrainian vehicles, while the others were taken out by mines, anti-tank missiles and artillery.
Wednesday’s medal ceremony was combined with the dedication of the ‘Battle of Kursk’ memorial at Ponyri, a farming community in the northern Kursk Region that was the site of some of the fiercest battles during the German offensive in July of 1943.
“The Nazi attack failed. They were stopped and driven back to their already inevitable collapse, because no Tigers, Panthers or other demonic ‘beasts’ could break the strength of the spirit of the Soviet soldier,” the Russian president added, listing the names of several types of German World War II tanks.
Germany launched Operation Citadel on July 5, 1943 but called it off within 12 days, after making negligible progress against the fortified Soviet defenses. The Soviet Union counts August 23 as the end of the campaign, however, as that was the date on which Kharkov was liberated as the result of Operation Rumyantsev.
Several NATO members have supplied Kiev with German-made Leopard 2 tanks, which saw action in the ongoing Ukrainian offensive.