This story has been updated.
Although the world’s eyes are focused on Iraq as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham makes shocking territorial gains there, some eyeballs should gaze back to where they were a few weeks ago: Ukraine. The Ukrainian interior ministry claims that the country’s rebels have gotten their hands on three T-72 battle tanks. Where exactly those tanks came from is something of a mystery.
According to Ukrainian Interior Minister Arseny Avakov, the three tanks crossed into Ukraine from Russia, along with armored personnel carriers and field guns, sometime Thursday. The Ukrainian government lodged a formal protest with Russia, which denies the tanks came from there. On Friday, the U.S. State Department backed Ukraine’s claims and said that the tanks had come from Russia. “Russia will claim these tanks were taken from Ukrainian forces, but no Ukrainian tank units have been operating in that area,” the State Department said. “We are confident that these tanks came from Russia.”
In videos posted on YouTube, the tanks can be seen moving through the streets of the Donetsk region.
Here, the tanks can be seen moving through the town of Torez, near the Russian border:
Here, the column reappears in the city of Makiivka, just outside Donetsk:
Here, another tank, apparently separated from the convoy, can be seen moving through an unidentified eastern Ukrainian city:
There’s some debate over whether these are T-72 or T-64 battle tanks. The Ukrainian government claims that they are T-72s, and I’m inclined to agree with them. The two tanks are notoriously difficult to tell apart but the T-72 has a flatter, lower, wider turret, which as far as I can tell seems to match the tanks in the videos.
Have a look at the schematics below and judge for yourself:
Regardless of model, the rebels apparently don’t know how to operate them. One reportedly broke down already.
Perhaps more importantly, Ukrainian forces on Friday retook the city of Mariupol. That operation was also documented on YouTube and serves as a monument to the ragtag nature of the Ukrainian armed forces. Their uniforms don’t match and their assault is heavily reliant on what appears to be an unarmored delivery truck:
Just another day in Ukraine.