The recent significant surge in tanks exotic to eastern Ukraine and the substantial gain of territory in of DNR forces has lead many to conclude that direct Russian involvement is taking place to the extent that it could be considered an invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation. Beyond the obvious evidence of Russian troops captured on Ukrainian soil supporting these claims, many (myself included) have been pointing to the out of place armored vehicles appearing only on the rebel side.
Many T-72Bs like these, both with Kontakt-5 and Kontakt-1 Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) have been posted across the web as hard evidence of an ongoing Russian invasion of Ukrainian sovereign territory. However likely it may be that these tanks do represent a mobilization of Russian forces on Ukrainian soil, there is a plethora of arguments seeking to discredit that notion.
Some of the most controversial footage to surface yesterday – August 27th, was of an allegedly Russian T-72B3 or possibly BA1 (AKA T-72B + Kontakt-5) that had been overrun and captured by Ukrainian forces in Donetsk. The tank, having sustained light battle damage considering that it was devoid of any crew was also marked by white stripes on each side. These stripes are usually used for Ukrainian troops to identify each other in the heat of battle which is why many were shocked to see them on a tank not before seen fielded by the Ukrainians in this theater, or at all for that matter. Some say that this is proof that Ukrainians have been operating T-72B3s all along while other say that it was marked by Ukrainian soldiers after having captured it.
Skeptics of the claims of invasion have been quick to point to images like the one below of Petro Poroshenko standing in front of a T-72B1 (+ Kontakt 1 ERA) as well as footage from the Kiev 7th Armor plant of T-72B1s in working configuration to dispute the possibility that the tanks could be Russian. What has yet to be explained however, is that no T-72B1s or T-64Bvs in Ukraine on the Ukrainian side have been seen with the commander’s hatch shield that so often are seen on rebel tanks.
Another trend worth noting is that no Ukrainian tanks have been spotted with Kontakt-5 ERA up to this point. All modern Ukrainian tanks are fitted with the domestic Nozh ERA. Nozh ERA may appear similar to Kontakt-5, but upon closer inspection the differences are clearly visible. Furthermore, Nozh is hidden behind metal plates on Ukrainian tanks such as the T-84 or BM-Bulat. This specific ERA is featured in the video from the Kiev factory which may have caused some people to confuse it with Kontakt-5 on a T-72B3 (and on some B1s), but if you look closely you’ll see that it’s more likely to be a T-72AG in the making.