Russia's 6th Tank Brigade: The Dead, the Captured, and the Destroyed Tanks (Pt. 2)
This post originally appeared in Russian on the LiveJournal of Askai707, sled-vzayt.livejournal.com.
English translation by Aric Toler
The following post is the second half of a two-part research project from Askai707. An English translation of the first half can be found here, in which Askai researches the mysterious deaths of two 6th Tank Brigade soldiers during the Battle of Ilovaysk and a Russian T-72B3 tank found on the Ilovaysk battlefield containing the documents of a 6th Tank Brigade serviceman.
In this second part of Askai’s research, his primary findings are that:
- Two Russian T-72B3 tanks from the 6th Tank Battalion, one damaged and the other destroyed, were in villages near Ilovaysk at the end of August 2014
- Two Russian servicemen of the 6th Tank Brigade — Ivan Badadin and Evgeny Chernov — were captured by Ukrainian soldiers during the Battle of Ilovaysk
- Russian servicemen of the 6th Tank Brigade, including a young man named Anton Dmitriyev, posted photographs of themselves in Ukrainian villages near Ilovaysk during the ongoing battle, even going so far as to photograph themselves by a sign of the Ukrainian village name.
In the morning of August 29, 2014, the “southern” column of Ukrainian soldiers, retreating from Ilovaysk, fell under fire from Russian army units at the village of Chervonosel’skoe in the Donetsk oblast’. While carrying losses, the Ukrainian soldiers engaged in battle. On the eastern outskirts of the village, fighters of the volunteer battalion “Donbass” were able to beat back a Russian T-72B3 tank and destroy a second (interview of a participant in the battle).
Fighters from the Donbass battalion took photographs of these tanks. On September 1, their photos were published on a news report of the television channel “24.”
The destroyed Russian T-72B3 tank:
Some more details about these tanks.
Thanks to video clips and photographs that were saved by Ukrainian soldiers, we are able to examine the damaged T-72B3 tank in detail. White, medium-sized circles are clearly visible on its fender (area on the side of tank above the caterpillar track), on the box for instruments on the left side of the turret, and on the lower part of the upper-front section of the hull. These white circles are the identifying marks used on the T-72B3 tanks of Russia’s 6th Tank Brigade in August & September, 2014 (further details about the identifying marks of the 6th Tank Brigade are in the 1st part of this article).
White circles on the fender and on the box for instruments and other implements:
The white identifying circle on the lower part of the upper-front section of the hull:
The tank was damaged by a grenade. The arrow below points to the hole caused by the anti-tank grenade:
The structure in the video frame is a rural house. It is located on the left side of the destroyed tank, consisting of three parts, which differ in height and the shape of the roofs:
It is not very difficult to find this structure on the satellite map of Chervonosel’skoe.
Here are the outskirts of the village from the east side. The house is among three structures, adjacent to one another. The north structure has the pronounced, acute roof. See the satellite image from August 2013:
On the satellite image for June 2014:
On the satellite image for September 2014, the northern half of the house has been badly damaged. Probably, after the video of the disabled T-72B3, Russians were shelling Ukrainian soldiers who had taken refuge in Chervonosel’skoe, and this northern side of the house suffered from it.
With the help of the satellite maps of the site Terraserver.com, which specializes in selling high-quality satellite images, we are able to see two positions of Russian tanks dug into the ground. The tanks fired on the Ukrainian column from there, when the column was driving up to the village. On August 29, the damaged and captured T-72B3 was located at the top of the firing position, which is shown in the snapshot of the map below:
The destroyed tank, as said by the fighter in this video, is positioned near the damaged one, behind the line of bushes at the bottom of the gully:
For verification, we can look at even earlier satellite images and be sure that there were not objects of similar shape or size at the same place at the bottom of the gully:
See the following photographs of this Russian T-72B3 tank, taken at different times:
On the upper part of the front section of the tank is a white circle—a mark that has traditionally been used for T-72B3 tanks from Russia’s 6th Tank Brigade during this period:
In all of these photos, the burnt turret with missing reactive armor bricks is to the left of the gun, which was seen near the tank’s hull in the pictures taken on August 29 immediately after the battle:
A video from the village of Chervonosel’skoe from Rupty TV (September 2) shows this T-72B3 tank turret, displaying the traces of heavy fire, and lacking any reactive armor bricks in the same location. This is clearly the tank’s turret, burnt up at the bottom of the gully:
Aleksandr Yermochenko filmed and photographed the turret on September 3:
Therefore, it is not the hull of the tank near the turret in the later, but the visible tracks on the earth.
The location of the T-72B3’s turret from the gully may be determined using a video that was filmed by fighters on the outskirts of Chervonosel’skoe and from photos on social media. We can pick out meaningful objects on the photographs: the turret of a Ukrainian T-64BV tank, a grouping of trees in the distance, the turret of a Russian T-72B3 tank, and some bushes:
The same thing in a screenshot from a fighter’s video:
These objects, just like Ukrainian equipment destroyed on the road, presents itself in the September satellite images of the northern edge of the village of Chervonosel’skoe:
Clearly visible in the images is the furrow that the T-72B3 turret was left in after being dragged along the ground. Perhaps Russian soldiers tried to take it away right after the end of the fighting, but they were not successful.
The next important part of the evidence regarding the Russian 6th Tank Brigade: the prisoners.
On August 29, as a result of the battle in Chervonosel’skoe, Ukrainian soldiers captured several Russian servicemen, including two tankists from the damaged T-72B3 tank. On this day, fighters from the “Donbass” battalion took a video of their interrogation. In March 2015, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) published this video clip.
There are two servicemen of Russia’s 6th Tank Division from the September group photos (see photos 1, 2, and 3 from Part 1 of this article) that seem to be in the footage: Ivan Badanin (number 17 in the group photos), and Evgeny Chernov (number 10 in the group photos).
During the improvised interrogation, Badanin and Chernov admit that they serve in military unit 54096 of the 6th Tank Brigade. Ivan Badanin introduces himself as Ivan Aleksandrovich, born in 1988, from Vologda. On his VK page, his given birthday is May 25, 1988. The city in his contact information is Nikol’sk, likely the one in the Volgodskaya oblast’. Evgeny Chernov is named as Evgeny Yuryevich, born in 1995, from Kaluga. On both of his VKontakte pages (seen here, and here), Chernov puts his city as Kaluga, and both of his pages come up when you search for people who are 20-years old in the city—therefore, his given birth year on VK is 1995.
The fact that Chernov is a tankist and was completing his service in the 6th Tank Brigade can be found from his photographs on social networks.
Evegeny is next to a T-72B3 tank with the tactical mark of Russia’s 6th Tank Brigade. The photograph’s geotag is at the village of Mulino, the place of deployment for military unit 54096. Under the photo is Chernov’s description: “Me and my iron horse.”
Another photo of Chernov with a T-72B3 tank in Mulino:
Fall, 2014. Chernov (in the center) on a tank of the 6th Tank Brigade with the identifying white circle in a field camp near the village of Latonovo in the Rostov oblast’:
Chernov (lower row, on the right) and his comrades are posing in front of a T-72B3: in the upper row in the center is Sergey Danilov (number 13 on the group photos), on the lower row on the left is Sergey Yakushev, also known as Gradov (number 2 on the group photos).
Naturally, Evgeny Chernov saved the group photos of 6th Tank Battalion from the field camp near Latonovo in his VK photo albums. Here are the links to the pages of these photo albums:
On his VK page, tankist Ivan Badanin left few compromising photographs, and after the appearance of the interrogation video, he entirely deleted his profile. Investigative blogger Anton Pavlushko of InformNapalm saved screenshots of a few photographs of Badanin.
Ivan Badanin near a memorial with a tank on the territory of the 6th Tank Brigade in summer, 2011:
Badanin in his military uniform with the insignia of the armored troops, and on his sleeve is the badge of the Western Military District of the Russian Armed Forces—the district into which the 6th Tank Brigade from Mulino is in.
Here is a snapshot of Badanin with his comrades of the 6th Tank Brigade—second on the left is Garik Pleshkov (number 3 in the group photos), and on the far right is Maksim Korotkov (number 4 on the group photos):
This photo remains on the VKontakte pages of these servicemen of the 6th Tank Brigade, along with their photos with Ivan Badanin.
Fighting ceased on August 30, 2014 near the village of Chervonosel’skoe. Facing encirclement from a large enemy force, a lack of ammunition, numerous injured soldiers, no prospects for reinforcements, and the threat of the destruction of Ukrainian servicemen defending Chervonosel’skoe, the soldiers decided to lay down their arms.
After the ceasefire, some Russian tankists photographed themselves at the signpost of the village of Chervonosel’skoe. Two pictures posted online were found by investigative blogger Anton Pavlushko. Thus, even more direct evidence of the participation of units from the Russian 6th Tank Brigade in the war in the Donbass came to light.
The first photograph was posted by Anton Dmitriyev after he registered on VKontakte under the name “Antokha Dmitriyev.”
In this photo on the left side is Dmitriyev’s colleague: tankist Roman Gromov (number 8 in the group photos). On the right is Antokha Dmitriev himself (number 9 in the group photos). White markers (strips, ribbons) are on both servicemen, which are used by Russian soldiers and fighters in order to tell their own soldiers apart on the battlefield:
Shortly after the publication of this photo, Dmitriyev deleted his “Antokha Dmitriyev” account and created a new one under the name “Anton Yuryevich.” He uploaded a number of photos from his old page onto his new one, with the exception of the picture at the road sign “Червоносільське” (Chervonosil’skoe). Let’s look at a few of his photos.
Dmitriyev (right) and Roman Gromov, again posing together:
Here is a photo of three tankists on the roof of the engine compartment of a tank. From left to right: Nikolay Minakov (on VK he registered under the nickname Nikola Woolf), Anton Dmitriyev, and Sergey Malafeyev. White ribbons are tied onto Minakov and Malafeyev. As previously stated, Russian servicemen participating in fighting use these ribbons for differentiating themselves from opposing soldiers:
Here is Dmitriyev with two of his comrades, dressed in their uniforms. From left to right: Anton Dmitriyev, Roman Gromov, Pavel Osytchenko (number 6 in the group photos). In their hands, they’re holding NSVT anti-aircraft machine guns, taken from tanks.
And, of course, Dmitriyev has that old, familiar group photo in his photo album:
Similarly, the same photo is available on the page of the comrade of Anton Dmitriyev, Roman Gromov, who was photographed with him in Chervonosel’skoe: https://archive.is/TrBbL
In the following photograph, Gromov is next to a comrade, whose identity has not yet been established:
Both of them are in camouflage without any kind of military insignia, but at the same time they are wearing the identifying white bands and have light firearms. On the right, in the visible building, is a window without glass and a burnt frame. Behind it, random objects are strewn. In the foreground we can see the open door of a car, and the body of another car.
Sergey Malafeyev posted the second photo near a road sign showing the name of the village of Chervonosel’skoe. In the photograph, he (highlighted with a red rectangle) is photographed with Anton Dmitriyev.
The next few photographs of Sergey Malafeyev were saved after he deleted his VK account.
A photograph uploaded in March 2014 (you can find the date of publication for the photograph in the archived page here)
In the September photograph, the unshaven Malafeyev is sitting on a T-72B3 with the identifying white ribbons on his legs. The tank has a small white circle on the panel by the gun on top of the turret:
Returning to the group photograph of the 6th Tank Brigade servicemen, it must be mentioned that Sergey Malafeyev is present. Also present is Nikolay Minakov, mentioned above. In my previous post with the group photographs, they were not numbered, in contrast to the other identified servicemen.
Malafeyev and Minakov are quite similar in appearance, and there was a risk in making a mistake and mixing up their places. Now, it seems that the most accurate identifications—seen in the photograph below—is red for Sergey Malafeyev and blue for Nikolay Minakov.
For completeness of information, let’s determine the exact location of the road sign (so beloved by these Russian servicemen) for the village of Chervonosel’skoe.
The sign is located on the bend of the road at the entrance into Chervonosel’skoe from the north (its location on Google Maps). The road sign and other objects are marked below on an image from Google Earth:
Behind the “Червоносільське” on the photographs, a Ukrainian military truck is visibly turned onto its side:
The road sign in the video of the fighters (on the photo, the Russian tankists are standing with their backs to the village and place from which the video was taken):
There is no detailed and exhaustive information about which units from the 6th Tank Brigade fought near Ilovaysk and in what capacity. According to the shooting card of Aleksey Berezin, whose T-72B3 was captured near the village of Agranomichskoe, we only know that the third tank company (abbreviated “3ТР” in the card photo) of the first tank battalion (“1ТБ”) participated in the battles.
Below is a screenshot from the video of journalist Rostislav Shapashnikov and Yegor Vorobyev. On the cartridge box of Berezin’s T-72B3 tank’s anti-aircraft gun, we see the abbreviation “3ТБ,” thus confirming that the tank came from the third tank company:
Below is a screenshot from Yegor Vorobyev’s film “Ilovaysk – report from hell.” The ammunition box of the T-72B3 tank on which several tankists from the 6th Tank Brigade posed has the exact same abbreviation. In the photograph below, we see Nikolay Minakov and Oleg Sapurnov.
On the following photo, from left to right, are: Sergey Danilov (number 6 in the group photos), Andrey Komarov (a shared photo of Danilov and Komarov in February 2014 here), Nikolay Minakov, and Oleg Sapurnov. The identity of the fifth serviceman has not yet been established.
We cannot consider the entirety of the destroyed and damaged tanks in the Battle of Ilovaysk to be from the 6th Tank Brigade. Ukrainian soldiers destroyed two T-72B3 tanks of the 6th Tank Brigade: one near the village of Novodvorskoe, and the second in Chervonosel’skoe. Two were damaged and temporarily seized: the damaged T-72B3 in Chervonosel’skoe was on Ukrainian-controlled territory for about a day, and the captured T-72B3 near the village of Agronomicheskoe was by Ukrainian servicemen for 3-4 days.
Other than these tanks, the 6th Tank Brigade has other damaged and destroyed T-72B3 tanks, which were taken back to Russia. To date, we know about two such tanks.
Screenshots of the comments for the photo were saved. Lebedev writes that this is his tank with the side number of 612, and that his tank was damaged in battle by a guided anti-tank rocket in Ukraine.
After this information was made public, Lebedev deleted the photo, along with other photographs where he is in a military uniform and with tanks. People managed to save a few of the photos (1, 2, 3). A screenshot was also saved of Aleksandr Lebedev’s VK profile page before it was changed:
In the photograph, he is in the 6th Tank Brigade group and has group photographs with other 6th Tank Brigade servicemen. We can see several accounts in his friend list who are tankists of the 6th Tank Brigade: Aleksey Berezin, Oleg Sapurnov, Vyacheslav Tumashov, Evgeny Lyubimov, Nikola Woolf (Nikolay Minakov), Vadim Romanyukha. It is evident that Aleksandr Lebedev also served in Mulino.
Lebedev’s damaged tank happened to be captured in a photo from Sergey Yakushev (“Gradov”), who was number 2 in the group photos.
At the end of 2014, the site Lostarmour.info published two photographs of a burnt-up T-72B3 tank. As of now, this is the last destroyed T-72B3 tank of Russia’s 6th Tank Brigade we know about.
Later, other photos appeared:
In the bottom of the upper-front part of the hull, an identifying white circle is still visible – like on other T-72B3 tanks of the 6th Tank Brigade that participated in the Battle of Ilovaysk (two additional photos: 1, 2)
Photographs of this T-72B3 were put onto social networks by Russian servicemen from the field camp near the village of Vodino. These soldiers were deployed on the border in the Myasnikovsky and Neklinovsky regions of the Rostov oblast’.
Vitaly Makarevich of military unit 11386 (105th Logistical Support Brigade) posted photographs on his VK page that have a geotag at Vodino. In these photographs, destroyed or damaged equipment is visible, including: a self-propelled howitzer 2S3, a T-72B tank with dismantled reactive armor (archived page), two hulls from armored personnel carriers, with one on top of the other (archived page).
Near these object is the a burnt-up T-72B3:
This survey has come to its end. It is now evident that the armored group of the 6th Tank Brigade was far from the only Russian army unit that has fought against Ukrainians near Ilovaysk. However, judging by the evidence of their presence in the Donbass, the tank brigade from Mulino was certainly among the leaders of the participating Russian groups in the Battle of Ilovaysk.