Several countries, including the United States, have pledged to send tanks to Ukraine. Kyiv awaits, with front-line mechanics learning to repair broken things.
Once dedicated to fixing civilian vehicles. an old depot hours from the front lines in eastern Ukraine now repairs. refurbishes and restores captured Russian tanks. armored personnel carriers and other pieces of donated or old military equipment.
“We have learned so much that sometimes military units come to us and learn from our mechanics. how to repair military equipment, both Soviet and foreign,” a chief mechanic at the shop told Zoom. Behind him could be heard the whirring of saws. and the hum of drills, as some of the dozens of mechanics working. Beside him restored old bits of military equipment.
Scattered on the warehouse floor are the carcasses. Of old Russian and American-made military vehicles. Volunteer mechanics shuffle between different pieces of equipment. Doing their best to learn what makes them tick.
“We’re trying to evolve and we’re trying to get better every time. In the hope that we can reach the level of a real military facility.” Said the lead mechanic. Who spoke on condition of anonymity because he fears his work could affect family life. . in a Russian-occupied area of the country. Before the war, these mechanics fixed cars and trucks, trains and buses. As with many things in Ukraine, their focus now is on the Russian invaders. And how the open Russian T-72 tanks, US-made MRAP (mine-resistant. Ambush-protected) vehicles and donated multiple-launch rocket systems were brought in. to them for repair.
While Ukraine’s Western partners spent months debating. Whether to provide tanks and other military pieces to Ukraine. Volunteer mechanics quickly learned how an array of used military. Hardware worked and modified them to return to the battlefield.
“We have never worked with military equipment before. This is a different kind of benefit. We weren’t ready for it, but the war started. And we had to push the Russian Federation back. That’s all we could do as mechanics,” said the chief mechanic through an interpreter.
The efforts of the lead mechanic and his crew are, in some ways. At the center of tensions that have recently overshadowed talks. Between Ukraine and its partners. As the war’s first anniversary approaches. Ukraine continues to demand military aid. Hitting the point that it needs more armored vehicles. And tanks — relying only on repaired and old Soviet-era equipment. To increasingly break up the frozen conflict. The United States, Germany and other NATO allies debated. What kind of aid to provide to Ukraine — initially no tanks. That changed last week with President Joe Biden’s announcement. That the US would deliver 31 M1 Abrams tanks. After intense negotiations with its European counterparts.
Germany has announced that it will initially deliver 14 Leopard 2 tanks. With the promise to send more later and to allow countries that have purchased their tanks to do the same. Other countries – including Poland, Spain, the Netherlands, Finland and Sweden. Have said they plan or are considering sending their own Leopard 2 tanks. The UK has committed to sending 14 of its Challenger 2 battle tanks.
Meanwhile, the Russian army has suffered massive tank losses since the start of the war. Oryx, a Dutch investigative project that documents equipment losses in combat. said 1,646 Russian tanks were destroyed, damaged, abandoned or captured. The group said it “includes only destroyed vehicles. And equipment for which photographic or videographic evidence is available.”
The seemingly bitter dispute has rankled some workers. At the repair facility as well as those who have provided parts. And funds to the shop. They believe, given the opportunity. Ukrainian mechanics can learn how to fix these tanks as well as the ones they’ve worked on so far. U.S. officials have expressed concern over whether the Ukrainians will be able to learn. how to use and maintain the tanks to be useful in a spring offensive. Though Kiev’s forces have proven adept at dealing with the new technology.
Bohdan Ostapchuk helped coordinate the repair of the captured vehicles. At the facility of the Serhiy Prytula Charity Foundation. A non-profit run by Prytula, a former television host and political candidate in Kiev. They have so far paid for the repair of 13 Russian vehicles: T-72 tanks. BTR-80 amphibious personnel carriers, BMP infantry fighting vehicles. And BREM-1 armored repair and recovery vehicles.
“When politicians abroad say. That the vehicles of Western countries are too complicated for Ukrainians. That we need to have a lot of infrastructure or that we need to spend a lot of time with these vehicles, this is not true,”