This post originally appeared in Russian on the LiveJournal of Askai707, sled-vzayt.livejournal.com.
English translation by Aric Toler
The following post was written by Askai707, a Ukrainian open source investigator that has written numerous reports on Russian tanks and soldiers in the Donbass. This report details the involvement of Russia’s 6th Tank Brigade in the now infamous Battle of Ilovaysk from August 2014. The primary evidence for this claim is:
- The death, and secret burials, of two 6th Tank Brigade soldiers on the same days as the battle.
- The discovery of a damaged T-72B3 (exclusively Russian) tank on the battlefield, holding the documents of a soldier of the 6th Tank Brigade
- The identification marks of this tank, and others, matching that of the 6th Tank Brigade from August 2014.
Two hundred years ago, it was said that “In Russia — everything is a secret, but there is no secrecy.” Since then, little has changed. If they are trying to disavow the Russian military’s involvement in the war in the Donbass at the highest state level and from the television screens of state television channels, then nothing is hidden at the household level. On social networks, Russian soldiers share photographs from Ukrainian war-zones with their friends, acquaintances, and other readers. They do this while boasting of war stories. Soldiers are made to sign the “Obligation of non-disclosure of restricted information,” threatened with the penalties carried by the law. However, as in the case of a junior sergeant of the 32rd Separate Motorized Infantry Brigade Stepan Potylitsin, such “Obligations” are also spread onto the Internet:
In this regard, the troops of the 6th Separate Tank Brigade of the Russian Federation (military unit 54096 of the village of Mulino, Nizhegorod oblast’) are no exception. The following post will examine evidence of the participation of a unit of the 6th Tank Brigade of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in fighting in the Donbass, collected from open source information.
The first half of September 2014. Fierce fighting near Ilovaisk had ended a few days before. In the Rostov oblast’ near the village of Anastasievka and in the field camp near the village of Latonovo, tankists from Mulino were taking a series of group pictures and posting them on social networks.
The field camp near the village of Latonovo on Yandex Maps:
About two dozen VKontakte accounts of soldiers were established from these group photos.
In the following list, the name(or nickname) that each person registered with in the VKontakte social network is connected with the corresponding number of the above photos. Furthermore, an archived link (or screenshot) of the front page of each soldier’s account is hyperlinked to his name.
- Aleksey Berezin
- Sergei Yakushev (Serezha Gradov)
- Garik Pleshkov
- Maksim Korotkov
- Pavel Osytchenko
- “Jack Daniels” (Kolya Bazylevich)
- Artem Sukharev
- Roman Gromov
- Anton Yuryevich (Anton Dmitriev)
- Yevgeny Chernov (second account)
- Yevgeny Lyubimov
- Vadim Romanyukha
- Serega Danilov
- Vyacheslav Tumashov
- Aleksey Lopin
- Lekha Fedoseyenko (at that time, judging by the photos from his page, he was not a soldier. He carried out his military service in the 6th Brigade, demobilized in 2013, so he lived not too far from the field camp of the brigade–in Rostov-na-Donu)
- Ivan Badanin
Membership of the group of soldiers to the 6th Tank Brigade is easily established through their profiles on social networks.
In the “military service” field, Yevgeny Lyubimov (number 11 in the group photos) filled out the number of his military unit of the 6th Tank Brigade — 54096, his place of work — the village of Mulino, military unit 54096, tank commander:
In the following photo, Lyubimov (badge on his uniform with the name “Gollandskikh E.R.) next to a T-72B3 tank with the tactical sign of the 6th Tank Division — white dots (likely, depending on which battalion, there are one, two in a row, or three dots, like on the photo below), which are located inside a white square:
The very same tactical signs and tank with the number 666 can be seen in the photo from December 2013 in a report from the Mulino firing ground. It was then that the 6th Tank Brigade received modernized T-72B3 tanks to replace their T-80BVs:
Kolya Bazylevich (number 6 in the group photos), until the deletion of his account under the nickname Jack Daniels, indicated in his profile that he served in military unit 54096, in the first tank battalion since 2009:
In the preserved account, Bazylevich left only the information about how he is from the village of Mulino:
This village Mulino is the place of deployment of the 6th Tank Brigade, as indicated in the profile of tankist Vadim Romanyukha (number 12 in the group photo).
Photographs remained on the page of First Lieutenant Garik Pleshkov (number 3 in the group photo) depicting T-80BV tanks of the 6th Brigade with the old tactical sign, before rearmament to T-72B3 tanks:
This is a photograph of Lekha Fedoseyenko (number 16 on the group photos) during his time of military service, with a geotag for the village of Mulino:
Another photo with a geotag for Mulino is of Lieutenant Maksim Korotkov (number 4 on the group photos):
The tankist Ivan Badanin (number 17 on the group photos), with a tank monument in the background on the territory of a military unit of the 6th Tank Brigade in Mulino:
Yevgeny Chernov (number 10 on the group photos) in a picture with a geotag for the village of Mulino next to a T-72B3 tank, on which the tactical sign of the 6th Tank Division is clearly visible:
Various T-72B3 tanks of the 6th Tank Brigade fall into the frame of the photographs of the tankists. White paint marks are marked on some of the tanks, easily recognizable as white circles:
The next photo, judging by the non-regular uniform without chevrons and with identifying white bands, was taken in the war-zone in the Donbass. On the 6th Tank Brigade tank, you will notice a white circle, printed onto a box for instruments on the left side of the turret. Earlier in this place was the side number and tactical sign of the unit:
On the left of the photograph is Nikolay Minakov (registered on VKontakte under the nickname Nikola Woolf), and on the right is Oleg Saprunov. They serve together with the aforementioned tankists in the 6th Tank Brigade, as indicated in two photos (first, second) in which they are photographed back in Russia on the base of the 6th Tank Brigade with fellow soldiers Vadim Romanyukh and Yevgeny Lyubimov.
So, in summary, identification marks of medium-sized white circles can be found on T-72B3 tanks of the 6th Tank Brigade: on the top of the front plate of the body close to the bottom edge; on the front of the turret to the left (in the direction of movement) of the gun barrel; on the left side skirt; on the rack above the crawler; on the box for instruments and accessories on the left side of the turret.
It’s known that in addition to the 6th Tank Brigade, units of the 17th and 200th Motorized Infantry Brigades have utilized T-72 tanks with T-72B3 modifications in the Donbass. However, this system is characterized by markings that are only seen with the 6th Tank Brigade.
During the time of fighting in the summer and autumn of 2014, the T-72B3 tanks from the 17th Motorized Infantry Brigade had markings of white circles twice the diameter on the front of the body and on the side rubber screens:
Yellow small triangles were used as markings on the T72-B3 tanks of the 200th Motorized Infantry Brigade during the same time period. They were applied onto the boxes for instruments on the left side of the turret and on dynamic protection blocks from the right side of the turret. Additionally, in attempting to make the tanks look like they were from the so-called “militia,” they would sometimes make notable markings on the side screens of the tank in the spirit of Soviet propaganda of the 1940s:
Taking this evidence into account, we can move on to a review of the evidence of the participation of the 6th Tank Brigade from Mulino in battles in the Donbass…
The end of August 2014. At the height of fighting near Ilovaysk. On August 26, new information appeared about killed soldiers from Mulino — Vladislav Barakov and Sergey Rusakov. On the social network site VKontakte, their colleagues made their first tragic notes.
Dmitry Gorbachev (his photo is in the background of the T-72B3 tank with tactical marks of the 6th Tank Brigade) published photos of Barakov and Rusakov, accompanied with the text “this terrible war has taken you”:
Andrey Frolov (photograph of the T-72B3 tank with the side number 662 with the tactical marks of the 6th Tank Brigade and writing “My Patsansky Taz for one year” in an album on the account of Frolov) on August 27 wrote a note of analogous content:
In the comments, he blames the Russian government for the concealment of Russian soldier deaths in Ukraine:
There is not much information about the deceased soldier Sergey Rusakov. Journalists have not written stories about his death. The VKontakte page of Rusakov was quickly deleted, and the last message from his Twitter was on August 15, 2014, saying that he was being sent near the border to Taganrog.
With Barakov it is different–his death could not be silenced. On social media, his profile remains:
Barakov on a T-72B3 tank:
Barakov in his Russian tankist protective armor (6B15):
The diploma that Junior Sergeant Vladislav Barakov received in the 6th Tank Brigade for “successes” and “conscientious performance of military duty”:
At the end of September, the New York Times published an article about the secret burials of Russian soldiers that died in the Donbass. Reporters went to the village of Selizovo, spoke with the relatives of Barakov, and visited the grave where Vladislav was buried. According to the plate on the cross, he was killed on August 24:
Thus, we know that at least two tankists of the 6th Tank Brigade perished.
On August 26th (the same day when records about the death of the 6th Tank Brigade tankists appeared), the news service Radio Svoboda reported, referencing journalists from Espreso.tv, that Ukrainian soldiers “in a battle, fought of Russian tanks, which had documents from a Russian military unit.” The next day, Espreso.tv put up a video clip of the captured tank.
In the video, taken by a journalists from “Dorozhny kontrol'” (Road Control) named Rostislav Shaposhnikov and a journalist from Espreso.tv named Egor Vorobyev, the captured Russian tank was a T-72B3 (the visual differences of a T-72B3 tank with other modifications is included in the first part of my previous article “Russian armored vehicles in the war in the Donbass”)
At that time, Ukrainian servicemen had already marked the tank with its two white stripes — distinctive signs of the vehicles of the Armed Forces of Ukraine [translator’s note: the soldiers presumably marked it quickly in order to avoid friendly fire during the ongoing fighting], but still had not painted over the Russian identifications–a white circle on the box on the left side of the turret:
On the photos, we can see a white circle from the front angle, located on the upper front plate of the body close to its lower edge:
The identification marks of this T-72B3 tank correspond with the identification marks used at this period in the 6th Tank Brigade of the Russian Federation. However, this is not direct evidence. In this tank, the firing practice card of Aleksey Alekseyevich Berezin from the third tank company of the first tank battalion was discovered:
Aleksey Berezin — the very same serviceman who was #1 on the 6th Tank Brigade group picture. It was the tank of his crew that the Ukrainian soldiers seized and the journalists Rostislav Shaposhnikov and Egor Vorobyev videotaped:
On Berezin’s VKontakte account, there is a group photo of the 6th Tank Brigade:
And another photo from the Rostov Oblast:
Berezin in his tankist body armor (6B15):
Berezin in his military uniform with the insignia of the tank forces:
The details about Berezin’s captured tank differ. The head of armored weapons service of the “Yug” (South) command, Colonel Yevgeny Sidorenko, indicated in his story that the tank was captured on August 24, and the captured tank was used in battle on August 25. Colonel Mikhail Kovalsky, who was the head of the engineering service of the “Yug” command, said that the tank was captured by his battle group on August 26 after shelling from an infantry fighting vehicle operating out of the village of Agronomicheskoe.
They did not manage to withdraw Berezin’s tank from Ilovaysk. On August 29 near the exit of the encirclement, Ukrainian soldiers were forced to leave the captured tank behind. In an article by Yaroslav Tinchenko called “September 2014. Ilovaysk. Part V. Exit of the ‘Southern’ group,” it is mentioned that Colonel Yevgeny Sidorenko managed to take the Russian T-72B3 to the outskirts of the village of Novokaterinovka.
Then, fighters of the DNR (Donetsk People’s Republic) discovered the tank. A picture from the VKontakte page of Mikhail Pishch:
On September 14, Berezin’s tank suddenly appeared in an episode of “Vesti nedeli” (News of the week) on the Rossiya 1 (Russia 1) channel. The T-72B3 tank was presented as a Ukrainian T-72 tank allegedly captured by the “militia,” and was “not of Russian or Ukrainian origin.”
Apparently, this T-72B3 was returned to the Russian military.
Berezin’s tank was captured near the village of Agranomicheskoe. In the same area — another T-72B3 tank of the 6th Tank Brigade of the Russian Federation was destroyed at the village of Novodvorskoe. This tank was shown in the programs “Segodnya” (Today) and “Chrezvychaynoye proisshestviye” (Emergency situation) on the NTV channel on September 9, 2014. The voice-over called the scorched T-72B3 tank of the Russian Army a “mighty Ukrainian tank” made in the Czech Republic.
The identifying mark of the 6th Tank Brigade has been preserved on the tank–a medium-sized white circle, located on the lower part of the upper end-plate of the body:
Other photos of this T-72B3 tank, taken at a different time:
The destroyed T-72B3 tank at the village of Novodvorskoe is on the fighter’s video “Roads of war. Donetsk”:
The exact position can be seen on Google Earth on the September 14, 2014 satellite photo: