Deadly Encounter Between Russian BTR-82 and Ukrainian M-2 in Eastern Ukraine

A deadly game of vehicular chicken on the front line in eastern Ukraine ended in death and destruction on or just before Saturday—but only for the losing side.

When a Russian army BTR-82 wheeled armored personnel carrier carrying a squad of infantry on its roof managed to cross the no-man’s-land between Russian and Ukrainian lines and speed into a Ukrainian-held settlement, west or southwest of the ruins of Avdiivka, an M-2 Bradley tracked infantry fighting vehicle from the Ukrainian army’s 47th Mechanized Brigade raced out to meet it.

As a Ukrainian drone observed from overhead, the two vehicles sped toward each other along the same paved road, the **BTR-82** firing its 30-millimeter autocannon and the **M-2** firing its own 25-millimeter autocannon.

At the last second, the BTR swerved right to avoid a collision. The two vehicles passed within feet of each other, each blazing away with its gun. “Not something you ever thought you’d see in real life,” the Estonian analyst with the handle “War Translated” commented.

There were clear winners and losers in this deadly game: the M-2 and its three-person crew seemingly escaped unharmed. The three-person BTR-82 rolled away damaged and smoking, dead and injured infantry spilling from its hull.

The 47th Mechanized Brigade described the context in a post on Telegram. A clutch of Russian motor rifle brigades and regiments are trying to advance from Donetsk and Avdiivka toward Pokrovsk, 25 miles to the west. “Here the enemy is trying to advance deep into our territory,” the 47th Mechanized Brigade explained.

“This APC, which you see in the video, broke into a settlement,” the brigade continued. “The Bradley crew had to react here and now.”

The outcome was predictable. Around the ruins of the eastern city of Avdiivka, one of the most violent sectors of the 700-mile front line in Ukraine, the Ukrainians are deploying heavier and more sophisticated vehicles, including the 34-ton M-2s with their fast-firing and highly accurate Bushmaster autocannons—while the Russians are deploying older and less sophisticated vehicles, including 13-ton MT-LB armored tractors and the 15-ton BTRs.

When Ukrainian and Russian vehicles clash in similar numbers, the Russians usually get beaten—badly. In May, the Russians lost nearly 300 APCs and IFVs that analyst Andrew Perpetua could confirm. The Ukrainians lost around 40, according to the analysts at Oryx.

To be fair, the Russians can afford heavier casualties. “Having huge reserves of manpower, the Muscovites quickly replenish the insane losses and throw them into battle again and again,” the 47th Mechanized Brigade explained.

The 2,000-person Ukrainian brigade estimated it’s facing a Russian force three times its own size. But Russian losses, it’s worth noting, are seven or eight times higher than Ukrainian losses—in other words, disproportionately high for the Russians.

Drone videos from the battlefield between Avdiivka and Pokrovsk seem to verify this lopsided loss ratio. The recent video depicting the game of chicken between an M-2 and a BTR is just the latest in a whole genre of similar videos.

In one video from early May, an M-2 crew detects an approaching MT-LB laden with infantry—and opens fire. The Russian infantry leap off the thinly armored tractor right before the Bradley’s 25-millimeter rounds slice into it. “M-2 Bradley shows how it’s done,” the Ukrainian defense ministry boasted.

In another video from a month later, something similar happens. Two Russian BTR-82s roll toward Ukrainian lines outside Avdiivka, dozens of infantry sheltering under their anti-drone cages. An M-2 takes up an advantageous position for an ambush and, when the Russian vehicles roll into an open area devoid of cover, the M-2 opens fire—chewing up the APCs and their passengers.

Expect more skirmishes like these as Russia’s wider war on Ukraine grinds into its 28th month. “The hostilities do not abate for a moment,” the 47th Mechanized Brigade pointed out.

And expect similar results. The Ukrainians have lost dozens of M-2s out of the 200 or so they got from the Americans last years, but are now making good their losses with a fresh batch of more than hundred replacement M-2s.

Meanwhile, the Russians are losing so many armored vehicles that they’re struggling to source enough replacements—and have begun outfitting some assault groups with golf carts and even motorcycles.

It should go without saying that, in a direct clash with an M-2, these flimsy civilian-style vehicles fare even worse than an MT-LB or BTR would.