Russia restoring captured, damaged Ukrainian tanks, vehicles - report

A new Russian repair base located "practically on the front line" is reportedly staffed by high-quality servicemen. All restored equipment will be transferred to Donetsk and Luhansk.

 A Ukrainian soldier sits atop a tank passing the Lysychansk Oil Refinery after if was hit by a missile at Lysychansk, Luhansk region, Ukraine, April 16, 2022.  (photo credit: MARKO DJURICA/REUTERS)
A Ukrainian soldier sits atop a tank passing the Lysychansk Oil Refinery after if was hit by a missile at Lysychansk, Luhansk region, Ukraine, April 16, 2022.
(photo credit: MARKO DJURICA/REUTERS)

Russian forces in Ukraine are capturing Ukrainian military vehicles, including tanks and armored personnel carriers, and restoring them to put them back in fighting condition, according to Russia's Defense Ministry.

This is reportedly being done at a new repair facility set up by Russian troops located "practically on the front line," giving them time to repair and restore vehicles with what the Defense Ministry claims are high-quality servicemen and modern maintenance and repair equipment.

According to the Defense Ministry, it takes these servicemen just eight hours to replace the engine of a BTR-80 armored personnel carrier.

Though the base also services Russian equipment, special attention was noted by the Defense Ministry to their work on captured Ukrainian equipment, noting that the servicemen have so far restored over 12 vehicles – including tanks, infantry combat vehicles and armored personnel carriers – captured from Ukrainian forces. Further, the Russian military claims to currently be recovering Ukrainian tanks that had been struck by Russian anti-tank missiles.

Russia claims that this restored equipment will be transferred to the Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic, the two pro-Russian separatist-controlled breakaways in eastern Ukraine.

This is not the first report of Russia working to restore military equipment.

 A charred Russian tank and captured tanks are seen, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in the Sumy region, Ukraine, March 7, 2022. (credit: Irina Rybakova/Press service of the Ukrainian Ground Forces/Handout via REUTERS) A charred Russian tank and captured tanks are seen, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in the Sumy region, Ukraine, March 7, 2022. (credit: Irina Rybakova/Press service of the Ukrainian Ground Forces/Handout via REUTERS)

In late March, the Ukrainian Intelligence Directorate (GUR) claimed that Russia started working to restore old military equipment held in long-term storage to replace the many equipment losses it had suffered during the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. However, this has proved difficult, according to the Ukrainian Intelligence Directorate (GUR), which claimed that corruption was responsible for delays in restoration.

"Optical devices and electronics containing precious metals were stolen from the combat vehicles," said GUR. The intelligence body reported that many of the 4th Tank Division's stored tanks were "completely dismantled," and that some did not have engines.

In the 52 days since Russia invaded Ukraine, Russian forces have suffered considerable losses in equipment, vehicles and manpower. 

According to the Ukrainian military, Russia has so far lost 773 tanks, 2,002 armored vehicles, 146 helicopters, 376 artillery systems, 66 air defense systems, 127 MLRSs, 76 fuel trucks, 148 drones, eight ships, 165 aircraft and 1,471 other vehicles. This is in addition to the estimated 20,300 casualties and 1,000 soldiers taken prisoner.

Fierce resistance coupled with fuel shortages and severe logistical issues has also resulted in Russian troops reportedly abandoning their vehicles in many parts of Ukraine.

Ukrainians have taken to capturing many of these vehicles, with Ukrainian media referring to them as "trophies" and President Volodymyr Zelensky at one point saying to Russia was now essentially a supplier of military equipment for the Ukrainian army.

"They flee the battlefield, throwing away equipment," Zelensky said at the time. "We take them as trophies and use them to defend Ukraine."

However, Russia's military still possesses a far greater supply of both manpower, equipment and vehicles compared to Ukraine. According to a 2021 annual ranking by Global Firepower, the Russian army is the second-strongest in the world, with the fifth-largest army, second-largest navy (behind only China) second-largest air force (behind only the US) and, most crucially, the largest number of tanks by far.

Michael Starr contributed to this report.