£58,000 bounty on Western tanks: Russian company offers cash reward to first troops who destroy or capture allied armoured vehicles sent to Ukraine

  • Fores is offering £58,000 to first Russian soldier to destroy Western tank
  • The Russian company will offer £5,800 for all subsequent attacks on the tanks

A Russian company today said it will offer five million roubles (£58,000) in cash to the first soldiers who destroy or capture Western tanks in Ukraine after the Kremlin vowed that any allied armoured vehicles shipped to Kyiv would ‘burn’. 

The United States, Germany and more Western allies are lining up to join Britain in sending dozens of heavy tanks to Ukraine over the next few months to help boost the country’s military capacity as the war approaches the 12-month mark.

The decision by the NATO allies has been criticised by the Kremlin as a dangerous esclation, with Moscow warning the new Western supplies will ‘burn like all the rest’.

Now a Russian company – Fores, a Urals-based firm which makes proppants for the energy industry – is offering cash payments to Russian servicemen who ‘capture or destroy’ German-made Leopard 2 or U.S.-made Abrams tanks.

A self-propelled howitzer is seen on a road near a frontline, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Donetsk region, Ukraine, on Sunday 

Berlin will initially supply at least 14 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine (file image)

Washington is sending 31 of its fast-moving M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine (file image)

READ MORE: How US Abrams, Germany’s Leopard 2 and US’s Challenger compare to Russia’s outdated tanks

The company said it will pay five million roubles (£58,000) to the first Russian soldier to destroy one of the tanks, and 500,000 roubles (£5,800) for all subsequent attacks. 

Echoing language used by Russian officials and pro-war state TV hosts, Fores said NATO was pumping Ukraine with an ‘unlimited’ amount of arms and escalating the conflict. 

It also said it would pay a 15 million roubles (£174,200) bounty on Western-made fighter jets, should they ever be delivered to Ukraine.

Washington is sending 31 of its fast-moving M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, while Berlin will initially supply at least 14 Leopard 2 tanks and give permission to other NATO countries – including Poland, Norway, Finland and Spain – to deliver their own to Kyiv. 

The UK has already said it will send 14 Challenger 2 tanks and Ukrainian troops on Saturday landed in Britain to learn how to use the next-generation battle tanks against Russian soldiers.

While a total of 321 heavy tanks have been promised to Ukraine by several countries, according to Kyiv’s ambassador to France, they could take months to appear on the battlefield. 

Ukraine is keen to speed up the delivery of heavy weapons as both sides in the war are expected to launch spring offensives in the coming weeks.

Russia’s ambassador to Germany, Sergey Nechayev, said last week that Berlin’s decision to send Leopald II tanks to Ukraine was ‘extremely dangerous’. 

He said it ‘shifts the conflict to a new level of confrontation and contradicts the statements of German politicians about their reluctance to get involved in it’.

Meanwhile, France has not yet committed to sending a squadron of its Leclerc tanks, but President Emmanuel Macron is now under pressure to match his allies’ offer of heavy armour.

On the front lines in Ukraine, fighting raged in the eastern Donetsk region, with Russia again shelling the key town of Vuhledar. 

Ukraine had been relying on Soviet-era T-72 tanks but its military will be modernised with the shipment of Nato vehicles

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Ukraine was facing a difficult situation in Donetsk and needed faster weapons supplies and new types of weaponry, just days after allies agreed to provide Kyiv with heavy battle tanks.

‘The situation is very tough. Bakhmut, Vuhledar and other sectors in Donetsk region – there are constant Russian attacks,’ Zelenskiy said in a video address late on Sunday.

‘Russia wants the war to drag on and exhaust our forces. So we have to make time our weapon. We have to speed up events, speed up supplies and open up new weapons options for Ukraine.’

Talks are also under way between Kyiv and its allies about Ukraine’s requests for long-range missiles, a top aide to Zelenskiy said on Saturday. Ukraine has also asked for U.S. F16 fighter jets.

German arms-maker Rheinmetall is ready to greatly boost the output of tank and artillery munitions to satisfy demand in Ukraine and the West, and may start producing HIMARS multiple rocket launchers in Germany, CEO Armin Papperger told Reuters.

HIMARS systems are currently made in the United States and have been used to devastating effect by the Ukrainian military.

Since the start of the conflict, Russia’s defence ministry has claimed to have destroyed hundreds of pieces of Western weaponry in Ukraine. 

Kyiv has previously dismissed those statements, highlighting for instance that Russia has claimed to have destroyed more U.S.-made HIMARS rocket launcher pads than were ever delivered to the country.

Previous deliveries of advanced Western arms, particularly HIMARS, have been credited with turning the tide of the 11-month war, helping Kyiv to secure a series of surprise victories and pushing back Russian forces from territory captured at the start of the invasion. 

Meanwhile, Russian missile strikes killed three people and injured six more in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson on Sunday night. The shelling damaged a hospital, school, bus station, post office, bank and residential buildings.

Among those reported injured were two women in the hospital at the time: a nurse and a cafeteria worker.

Ukrainian firefighters work in a house in flame following Russian shelling in the city of Kherson on Sunday 

– Ukrainian medics carry the body of a local resident killed in a residential building after a Russian shelling in Kherson on Sunday

Russian troops had occupied Kherson shortly after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, and held the city until Ukrainian forces recaptured it in November.

Since its liberation, the city has regularly been shelled from Russian positions across the Dnipro river.

Later on Sunday a missile struck an apartment building in the northeastern town of Kharkiv, killing an elderly woman, regional Governor Oleh Synehubov said.

Ukraine’s General Staff said on Monday that Ukrainian troops had repelled a Russian attack in Bakhmut, the focus of Moscow’s offensive in the eastern Donetsk region, and in several other cities in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

A Ukrainian military statement issued on the previous evening had noted intensified fighting in Vuhledar, southwest of Bakhmut, in recent days.

Denis Pushilin, the administrator of Russian-controlled parts of Donetsk, said on Monday that his forces had gained a foothold in Vuhledar, Russia’s TASS news agency reported.

Ukrainian military analyst and colonel, Mykola Salamakha, told Ukrainian Radio NV that Russian troops were mounting waves of attacks on Vuhledar.

‘From this location we control practically the entire rail system used by the Russians for logistics … The town is on an upland and an extremely strong defensive hub has been created there,’ he said.

‘This is a repetition of the situation in Bakhmut – one wave of Russian troops after another crushed by the Ukrainian armed forces.’

Meanwhile, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg visited South Korea, a U.S. ally and major arms exporter, on Monday and urged Seoul to increase military support to Ukraine.

Russia’s RIA news agency quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying on Monday that as the United States had decided to supply tanks to Ukraine, it made no sense for Russia to talk to Kyiv or its Western ‘puppet masters’.

On Sunday however a Kremlin spokesperson told RIA Russian President Vladimir Putin was open to contacts with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Scholz was quoted by the Berlin daily Tagesspiegel on Sunday as saying, ‘I will also speak to Putin again because it is necessary to speak’.

‘The onus is on Putin to withdraw troops from Ukraine to end this horrendous, senseless war that has cost hundreds of thousands of lives already,’ he added.

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