These Russian tanks shooting at Russian soldiers | War in Ukraine
They are hidden in several places in Ukraine. The one we saw is lost in the middle of the Donbass fields. These are military workshops. Places where Ukrainian tanks are repaired, but also Russian vehicles seized on the battlefield, then turned against the enemy.
Ukrainian tanks being repaired in a sweatshop.
A contact from the Ukrainian army arranged to meet us near a bridge. From there, he guides us to a small industrial sector in the middle of the fields. Towards a vast hangar with a vaulted roof.
We are in the east of the country. Not too far from the front. The Ukrainian army asks us not to say more. To photograph only the interior.
In this hangar, we find tools, spare parts. And damaged tanks. This is the workshop of the repair battalion for the 3rd Ukrainian Armored Brigade.
An armed soldier stands guard at the entrance, near a wood stove. The floor is clay. Birds come and go. A few yellow and blue flags are prominent.
Three mechanics in military uniform work on one of these large tracked vehicles. They are trying to repair a T-72 tank. A tank abandoned in Ukraine by the Russian enemy.
Any marks that identify it to the enemy have been erased. The Ukrainians use the same models of tanks, from the Soviet era. This tank is a bit like a gift from the sky.
When you see an abandoned Russian tank, you take everything you can. We become like children, says Commander Oleksandr Dereka, responsible for this repair battalion.
For us, they are just machines. We do not stop to think that Russians may have died in the tank. We lack spare parts!
The unit has already repaired and returned to the front five Russian armored vehicles. That's about a quarter of the tanks his brigade lost in combat. And that's without counting all the pieces that can be useful.
Look around you, he says: transmissions, engines, wheels. More than half of what you see here is Russian armor!
Tanks whose presence is often reported to the commander by contacts in the area.
But not all that is abandoned is recoverable. The machinery is often poorly maintained, explains Commander Dereka. The Russians mistreat their equipment.
Machine gunner Roman Batsenko agrees. He claims to have often piloted tanks taken back from Russian soldiers. He compares these tanks to organ donors for the Ukrainian army.
This Ukrainian armored vehicle, already well proven, is a must in the workshop.
As a gunner, Roman Batsenko teams up with two other soldiers, installed in the tank. It is he who aims and must destroy the opposing targets. He has stopped counting his victims.
But it often happens that the machine on board which he must work is no longer in working order. Hit by Russian fire. Or the victim of a mechanical problem.
In this case, Roman Batsenko's team takes anti-tank weapons, jumps into a trench… Sometimes in the hope of being able to steal a tank to the enemy.
The gunner claims to have seized several Russian tanks. Vehicles abandoned by the adversary. Sometimes risky flights, carried out very close to Russian lines.
It doesn't matter if it's a Ukrainian tank or a Russian tank. The goal is to destroy those of the adversary who have come to take our lands. The sooner we do it, he stresses, the sooner we will go home.
Roman Batsenko sees the irony of the operation. We send their own shells back to them, he laughs. But this is war. No room for feelings.
A mechanic starts one of the tanks to move it. The large warehouse quickly fills with smoke. The air is toxic, but the work goes on, as if nothing had happened.
Commander Dereka watches his men, like a caring father. He appreciates their efforts, but also understands the limitations of the exercise.
These tanks have been in combat for more than eleven months. It hurts me to admit it, but they are not invincible. These machines have had their day. Some are more than 40 years old.
Donbass artillery duels are mainly done with machines that are at the end of their life. It's hard to admit, but we're on the edge of what's possible with them, he agrees.
That's why the commander looks forward to American Abrams tanks, German and Canadian Leopards and British Challengers. More capable vehicles, promised for spring.
Battle is a bit personal for the Commander. One of his sons moved to farmland in Saskatchewan a few years ago. He misses him. He hopes for a victory over Russia in order to convince him to return to Ukraine to live by his side.
A year of war in Ukraine: Before us, there is only victory !