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Exclusive - Charred tanks in Ukraine point to

Russian involvement
A destroyed T-72 tank, which presumably came from Russia, is seen on a battlefield near separatist-controlled Starobesheve, eastern
Ukraine, ctober 2, 2!"#$
%& 'AR(A TS)*T+)A A,- A.*+SA,-AR )AS)(/-
Thu Oct 23, 2014
(Reuters) - The burnt-out remains of dozens of tanks and armoured vehicles in fields
near this small village bear itness to the ferocit! of a battle that turned the tide of the
conflict in eastern Ukraine"
#ost of the tanks ere used b! the government forces routed in $ugust near
%orbatenko& '( km ()* miles) southeast of the rebel stronghold of +onetsk& a defeat so
demoralising that da!s later ,iev agreed a ceasefire ith pro-Russian separatists"
-ut among the debris Reuters found the blackened carcasses of hat militar! experts
have since identified as to Russian arm! tanks& supporting statements b! ,iev and
the .est that the rebels ere backed b! troops and e/uipment sent b! #osco"
#osco denies the accusations though the rebels had been on the brink of defeat until
late $ugust& hen the Ukrainian government sa!s the! received an in0ection of soldiers
and eapons from Russia"
Reuters shoed photographs of the to badl! damaged tanks& one of hich had lost its
turret& to four independent militar! experts& ho said the! ere of a t!pe used
exclusivel! b! the Russian arm!"
$t least one& the! agreed& as a T-1)-# - a Russian-made modification of a ell
knon 2oviet tank" This version of the tank& the! said& is not knon to have been
34t is operated b! the Russian $rm! in large numbers& but cruciall! it is not knon to
have been exported or operated outside of Russia&3 5oseph +empse!& a militar! anal!st
for the 6ondon-based 4nternational 4nstitute for 2trategic 2tudies& rote in late $ugust
hen a tank like that as discovered on grain! footage of rebel convo!"
3The presence of this variant in Ukraine therefore strongl! supports the contention
that Russia is suppl!ing arms to separatist forces&3 +empse! said"
2uch remarks clearl! undermine Russian denials of direct involvement in the conflict
in Ukraine to ensure #osco maintains some influence and make governing Ukraine
difficult as ,iev charts a .estard political and economic course"
The militar! experts shon photographs of the to tanks said the second as either
the same as the first& a T-1)-#& or a slightl! different model& a T-1)-7"
#ore conclusive recognition is difficult because of the extent of the damage"
The 2oviet-made T-1)-7& +empse! said& is not believed to be in active service in
Ukraine& making it almost impossible that the separatists captured it in battle"
Ukraine8s 2ecurit! Council& hich groups the countr!8s top political& defence and
securit! chiefs& said in 5une the separatists ere using T-1) tanks that could not have
been captured from the Ukrainian arm!"
94ERCE -$TT6E2
,iev also said in late $ugust that Russian forces had entered Ukraine and occupied
2tarobeshevo& * km (three miles) from %orbatenko"
The Ukrainian +efence #inistr! did not respond to a re/uest b! Reuters for more
details of the decisive battles that folloed soon afterards but Ukrainian soldiers
caught in the battles sa! the! ere /uickl! overcome"
$lexei ,oshelenko& ho said he as captured on $ug" )'-)* near the ton of 4lova!sk&
said: 3.e ere hit b! (multiple rocket launcher) ;rads and after that the troops 0ust
sept us aa!" .e ere completel! defeated ithin )( minutes" #an! of us ere
killed& others are missing"3
3The! ere Russians&3 he said after being released ith other prisoners of ar"
Referring to a cit! <(( km ()(( miles) northeast of #osco& he said: 3The! said the!
ere an airborne assault battalion from ,ostroma"3
The accounts of residents of %orbatenko& a village of a fe dozen inhabitants hich
overlooks the fields that became the battlefield& also challenge Russia8s denials of
direct intervention"
=alentina 4vanovna& 1*& said she as slightl! ounded b! shrapnel hen fighting
became fierce in late $ugust"
3.e sa an armoured convo! coming don here&3 she said" 3The! had hite circles on
the armour and hite flags but hose troops the! ere e don>t kno"3
?either the rebels nor the Ukrainian forces have hite circles as their permanent
recognised emblem" -ut another local resident& ho gave her name onl! as ?ina for
fear of retribution& said she had been told the meaning of the hite circles in
conversations ith passing soldiers ho identified themselves as Russian"
3@ne of them told me: hite circles mean this is Russians&3 she said" 3%e came to the
last house for some ater to drink and 4 asked ho !ou can tell the difference beteen
a Ukrainian or Russian" %e said that if it8s us& there are hite circles on the tanks"3
The to damaged tanks ere too badl! burned to have an! recognisable insignia but a
destro!ed 2oviet-made -#A-) armoured personnel carrier a fe hundred metres aa!
also bore a hite circle on its broken turret"
Residents of areas on the Ukrainian side of the border ith Russia also reported seeing
armoured convo!s marked b! hite circles on $ug" )B"
To da!s later Reuters spotted an armoured convo! ith the same insignia on the
Russian side of the border"
U,R$4?4$? $CCU2$T4@?2
$t the end of $ugust& Ukraine accused Russian troops of crossing the border" To
support the accusations& it released videotaped intervies ith Russian paratroopers
captured b! Ukrainian forces in a village 7* km (nine miles) from %orbatenko" The!
said the! served in the CDth division based in the ton of 4vanovo in central Russia"
Russian Aresident =ladimir Autin said he believed the! had lost their a! and crossed
the unmarked segment of the border unintentionall!" The captured paratroopers ere
later sent back to Russia"
$nti-tank missiles fired near here the tanks ere destro!ed also appear to have
originated in Russia because various used parts of ,ornet anti-tank guided missiles
ere left there"
Reuters shoed three militar! experts photographs of the missile parts and to of
them said Ukraine does not have anti-tank guided missiles of this t!pe"
3The presence of the ,ornet $T;# is noteorth! and hile it has been exported
idel! b! Russia this list does not include Ukraine" $s such& it further supports
Russian involvement&3 the 4nternational 4nstitute for 2trategic 2tudies told Reuters"
Trenches near the tanks also provided hat appeared to be more evidence of foreign
troops - numerous empt! boxes of read!-to-eat meals that are used b! the Russian
arm!" Each box contains meals for one da!"
$ Reuters reporter counted 7)' packages of field rations ith 3not for sale3 labels and
notes that the! ere produced for the Russian +efence #inistr!"
$ spokesoman for =oentorg& the compan! in Russia that produces such meals for the
Russian +efence #inistr!& confirmed the! cannot be sold"
$bout *( empt! bottles of mineral ater around the tanks bore labels identif!ing them
as being produced in Russia8s 4vanovo province& the region here the division of the
Russian paratroopers captured in $ugust is based"$lthough #osco has denied an!
direct involvement in the conflict& graves have been found in Russia ith the remains
of Russian servicemen ho relatives& friends and human rights activists sa! ere killed
in Ukraine"
#osco and the rebels have said that an! acting servicemen from Russia ere
volunteers" $sked about the presence of Russian arms and field rations in Ukraine a
spokesman for the Russian +efence #inistr! said: 3.e have the anser and it has
been given multiple times"3
Ukraine8s +efence #inistr! did not repl! to a re/uest from Reuters about the losses
near 2tarobeshevo"
($dditional reporting b! Aeter $pps in .ashington and Christian 6oe in .arsaE
Editing b! Timoth! %eritage and ;iles Elgood)
Aosted b! Thavam