This is the scene at Kryvyi Rih on Thursday, slightly reminiscent of the iconic burning oil wells of Operation Desert Storm. In fact the fate of these tanks may well be close to that of the Iraqi oil well. While human error is the most popular theory so far, the thought of sabotage does come to mind. Additionally, Interfax reports that the incident is currently being treated as criminal.
The tanks in question are two T-64s, a tank much ahead of its time back when it was first being fielded and still a relevant piece of equipment. The two T-64s come from the 17th armored brigade, the closest armored brigade to Donetsk Oblast. If this was indeed sabotage performed by an outside party it is unlikely to have been carried out by professional saboteurs, while the T-64 is still an apt tank it is among the older and more outdated tanks in the Ukrainian arsenal and the Russians should be far more concerned with the few T-84 Oplots Ukraine has.
With this in mind, the idea of a scared tank operator or an amateur pro-Russian rank within the most likely scenarios for what really happened to these two tanks.
The video above shows the tanks in the distance, you can hear the ammunition going off every now and then.
It should come as no surprise at this point that Crimea is chock full of Russian troops. If you’re not one to be impressed by Russian uniforms then rows on rows of Tigrs and BTR-80s should do the trick.
Russian BMD-2s on the move in Rostov.
The Russians themselves don’t seem to care much whether the rest of the world knows about their presence as they see it as a matter of time that Crimea becomes Russian regardless of an invasion. What is interesting, however, is how adamant they are on keeping their presence ambiguous, only the old-school BTR-80s are being seen inside Crimea and all the other equipment is technically also open for export, however unlikely a militia mass-mobilizing this equipment may be.
Shown below is a convoy of BTRs within Crimea, this type of vehicle as well as GAZ Tigr is a common sight among Russian troops in Ukraine.
Meanwhile on the other side of the border, much more modern equipment is being accumulated under the guise of exercises, among others, the auto-canon version of the BTR-80 (BTR-82a) is seen as well as a wealth of BMD-2s, the Infantry Fighting Vehicle(IFV) of the Russian airborne service VDV which has been reported present several times during the first days of the invasion.
The tweet below is describing the mobilization of BMD-2s in Rostov, Russia. Rostov oblast borders the largely Russian ethic regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, these IFVs are certainly heading towards the border region with the other troops already mobilized alongside eastern Ukraine.
Recently Ukraine has requested to send a reconnaissance mission over the Russian side of the border to which the Kremlin has agreed due to a pre-existing airspace agreement between the two countries. The time of the flight is yet to be established and is in reality moot as Russia will respond to any troop mobilization claims with claims of exercises going on in the area.
An interesting point you can take from the equipment mobilized is that if you look back at Georgia in 2008 (inevitably I had to do it), the equipment was far older than what we are seeing moving around on the border now. This could indicate that Russia sees a greater potential conflict in Ukraine or a variety of other factors.
In any case, an all out war appears far off and Russia is unlikely to make a move on mainland Ukraine as the current situation stands.