Columns of T-72Bs reminiscent of the infamous footage of the outbreak of the 08/08 war are increasingly common sights coming out of ceasefire Novorossiya, and with good reason, these steel beasts have come to form the backbone of the separatist defense. The T-72 chassis is no stranger to the Ukrainian armed forces, Just this winter a large shipment of T-72As came in to aid in the fight against Russian backed forces but have been nowhere to see in the vicinity of the front. Furthermore, Ukraine has been known to produce T-72B1s and other variants of the chassis for export.
The DPR & LPR however seem to have found a far more functional use for these tanks and as the war has dragged on more and more captured T-64BVs seem to have been swapped out for the Russian workhorse that is the T-72. Although in the DPR most units (save for Republican Guard battalions) field the T-72, the highest concentration is to be found in the DPR Ministry of defense 1st Army Corps’ Independent Tank Battalion known as “Diesel”.
“Diesel” is known to field at least 35 T-72 tanks, each of which has been individually verified through open source information using their battalion specific markings. Although “Diesel” also has several of the more advanced T-72B3 variant and a handful of captured T-64BVs, the vast majority of armor in the battalion is made up of what has come to be known as the T-72B1, in numbers unprecedented on the Ukrainian side.
The exact assignment and geographical position of “Diesel” is rather vague but it can be deduced that it has been assigned with assisting in offensive action in the northern regions of the DPR, This deduction is largely reached by movement recorded in the area of Makeevka towards Donetsk and subsequent footage of “Diesel” troops aiding “International Brigade Pyatnashka” in their fight for Mar’inka alongside “Somali” and and armor from the 7th “Slavyansk” motor rifle brigade of the DPR Ministry of Defense 1st Army Corps.
What is interesting about “Diesel” in particular is its status of somewhat of a new kid on the block as it hasn’t yet any reputation from previous battles unlike many of the older units such as “Oplot”, “Somali” and “Motorola”. In fact, it would appear that “Diesel” has sprung out of nowhere. Much speculation has been made that “Diesel” has been created out of “Oplot” — an old armored fighting unit active since the Ilovaisk era but no credible evidence has been put forth and this shall remain speculation. Much more likely is that this is a unit reserved mainly for Russian tankers supplied with the Russian tanks they are used to, mixed in with a couple of locals to look good for the camera. To justify the speculation that the purpose of Diesel is offensive action (beyond what was witnessed at Mar’inka) I will refer to footage of “Diesel” undertaking amphibious exercises with a mechanized bmp-2 element of theirs. With water bodies being a large obstacle to the expansion of DPR territory, it would make sense for units intended for offensive purposes to undergo training to overcome such obstacles. Beyond that, because of the ceasefire, armor is only ever used when the DPR truly wants to put pressure on Ukrainian defenses, which speaks loads about the nature of “Diesel”, which only began to let itself be known after the cease fire.
Another peculiarity about this unit in particular is that some armor in “Diesel” features different Russian railway markings than regularly found on DPR/LPR tanks in Ukraine. Regularly, Russian tanks in Ukraine will be marked with a destinctive “н2200” on the side after a circle with a cross through it, however some “Diesel” armor is marked with н1200 (or и1200, low quality footage makes it difficult to tell), this is specifically in reference to T-72B1s with the 11xx individual unit markings and a T-72AV. What this tells us, I don’t know, but it is certainly a peculiarity to take note of.
There is no way to know what role “Diesel” will play in the future as we do not know what the future holds for Ukraine in general. It is however safe to assume that we will be seeing plenty plenty from them should hostilities flare anew, beyond back-and-forth shelling and back into offensives in the North/Eastern direction.