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"The Ukrainian Army is Our Biggest Supplier" — Inside the Rebels' Tank Repair Facility

Rebel forces have captured large amounts of Ukrainian weaponry, including tanks, but these often need extensive repairs

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This article originally appeared at Komsomolskaya Pravda. It was translated by J. Hawk at Fort Russ

One can tell it’s the beginning of an offensive through circumstantial evidence. The menacing announcements by Ukrainian military about secret envelopes with strategic plans which are in safes. By politicians’ visits to the combat zone. The military leadership of the rebellious republics understand that the fourth wave of mobilization has to be interdicted. The only way to do so is by breaking the front line.

<figcaption>Thanks for the tank, Kiev!</figcaption>
Thanks for the tank, Kiev!

In the last few days the DPR army began to break apart the enemy strategic concentration by Donetsk, in the cluster of towns of Peski, Avdeeva, Opytnoye, Vodyanoye. There were rumors of movement along other sectors. The first official comment was made only on Friday. DRP head Zakharchenko said, verbatim,

“the DPR will no longer attempt to discuss the ceasefire with Kiev. There will be no more attempts to discuss a ceasefire. Now we will see how Kiev will react. Kiev does not understand that we can advance on three sectors simultaneously. No more ceasefires, no more rotations. Only exchanges of prisoners because we want to get our guys out of prison. We’ll beat the exterminators until we reach Donetsk region border.”

As it turned out, Zakharchenko can walk the walk. The DPR National Council deputy and Deputy Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Vladislav Brig told journalists that the offensive is being conducted on three sectors:

“Ukrainian forces are withdrawing from Dzerzhinsk. Cossacks and Prizrak in LPR are attacking Popasnaya and Troitskaya. They are creating an encirclement. Another encirclement will take place at Debaltsevo. The militia is storming Krasnyy Partizan, Troitskoye, in the vicinity of Gorlovka, and is defending Shumy. My understanding is that we’ll also continue the attack on Mariupol, but right now can’t comment on that. Ukrainians left Olginka, near Volnovakha, at the moment it’s no man’s land.

— What is happening near the city?

Ukrainian forces left Yasinovata. There is fighting in Avdeevka, the Ukrainian army is attempting counterattacks.

— Much is being said about raiders in Donetsk, is it true?

Overnight we responded 12 times to reports about raiders.

— What do they say about enemy combat readiness?

"Judging by the reports about secret Russian psychotropic weapons, it seems pretty bad. You probably remember that in the fall they accused us of using nuclear weapons against the Donetsk Airport."

Vladislav Brig’s words are indirectly confirmed by the reduction of the amount of shells falling on Donetsk, Ukrainian artillery has other problems. Our repair crews have more work. Local workers are restoring seemingly “dead” enemy equipment in secret factories. We are walking along huge, endless hangars.

Everything is well organized. Here they are repairing howitzers. We’re looking at a 100mm Rapira with damaged recoil mechanism. Next to it a 152mm D-20 howitzer with a broken carriage trail. Next to it a huge 152mm Msta-B towed cannon. Last summer we displayed it on a square, showing our trophies. It is almost ready for action.

Next door there is captured armor as far as the eye can see. BMPs, BTRs, tanks, self-propelled artillery…Some of them still have their recognition markings—two white stripes. This is why the militia calls the Ukrainian armor “pregnant”. Vehicles-“donors” are standing separately. They are being disassembled for spares.

We see tank turrets on special scaffolding. The local grease monkeys are disassembling BMP vision blocs. A tank, seemingly lifeless and deprived of its tracks, suddenly shudders and emits a plume of smoke, then continues to growl. “It’s alive!”—the repairmen scream with joy.

Factory chief Vladimir Lynkov is looking at his charges with fatherly love. He started the war as a BMP driver. He came here to repair his vehicle and stayed as a factory floor chief.

“We are receiving equipment captured from the Ukrainian army,” says Lynkov. “We started with BMPs, then we received BTRs, tanks…We fix everything.”

At the beginning they all had white stripes. The hull numbers indicate their unit, company, and platoon…

— How many does it take to assemble one fully operational vehicle?

“It depends. Sometimes it’s one from two, or two from three, or three from four vehicles. Depends on the level of damage. Starters and compressors we can fix ourselves. We’re short of spares, of course. The Ukrainian army is our main supplier, of course, and we’d like larger deliveries. They are promising to bring us several BMP-2s and BTRs for spares. We’re waiting.”

— What is usually broken?

“There is damage from explosions, but there is also equipment damaged by misuse. Sometimes they fail to start a vehicle because of improper settings, so they abandon it. Then they damage the radiator or put sand in the oil pan and leave it there. Sometimes they use summer diesel fuel during winter, and it freezes. We are short of electrical equipment. Still, I hope this war ends soon. This is my second, I never thought I’d have to fight at home.”

— The first was Afghanistan?

“Yes, the Jabalsk 177 Motor Rifle Regiment, the tank battalion, 12th firebase.”

— Did you find anything interesting in captured equipment?

“Not really…Ammunition, US field rations, booby traps. In one tank we found eight.”

A huge crane is lifting a repaired BMP above our heads and moves it to the exit.

“This vehicle was assembled from Ukrainian donors, it starts up instantly, we painted it up,” boasts Lynkov. “People already came to pick it up so that it can fight for justice.”

On the next factory floor they are still making civilian goods. They asked us not to tell exactly what. Believe me, right now it’s as important as the military production.

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