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Tanks of Buhaivka: A training facility in Eastern Ukraine

March 17, 2017

By Bellingcat Investigation Team

Translations: Русский

On March 16, 2017, popular Ukrainian Twitter user @GirkinGirkin published a tweet sharing imagery of armored vehicles, including tanks. The user claims that the photographs were uploaded on the same day near Buhaivka, Luhansk oblast, thus in an area currently not under the control of the Ukrainian government. After analyzing new satellite imagery from Digital Globe captured on Wednesday, March 15, we can confirm that Russian-separatist forces currently have dozens of pieces of heavy military equipment near Buhaivka.

Buhaivka, located at 48.416415 38.858286, is south of Alchevs’k and about 40km west-southwest of Luhansk. The nearest Ukrainian positions are about 35km north and west of the camp. The distance to government-controlled Popasna is around 43km, and to government-controlled  Svitlodars’k – one of the hotspots of the fighting in this winter – around 47km. Because of its position, Buhaivka and the surrounding area fall within the agreed withdrawal lines for certain military equipment, and the presence of such equipment would constitute a violation of heavy weapon withdrawal agreements.

Situation in Eastern Ukraine on March 16, 2017, source:


Already in summer 2015, a military facility – almost certainly a training facility – was established in the area south of Buhaivka. On June 4, 2015, the area showed no signs of the later facility. On July 20, 2015, tracks indicating intensive usage and the presence of military equipment in newly-created camps became visible. The available imagery in Google Earth documents ongoing usage in the area from this date until February 16, 2016, the last available date for satellite imagery in Google Earth for this area. Already in July 2015, tanks were visible in the facility, and towed howitzers later make an appearance.

Camp / training facility area south of Buhaivka, 48.406599 38.880819


The presence of military equipment in this area was also reported repeatedly by the OSCE, such as in its reports for December 1, 2015, November 11, 2016, January 5, 2017 and March 9, 2017. The OSCE reports strongly indicate that the facility was used after February 16, 2016, the date of the last available satellite imagery in Google Earth. However, the fluctuating number of observed vehicles in these reports indicates also that there is no constant presence of the same equipment in the area. It should be noted that monitors in the OSCE reports clearly differentiate between tanks and howitzers, e.g. in the report for January 5, 2017, only the presence of howitzers is considered as a “violation of the withdrawal lines”, while the presence of tanks is classified as “weapons beyond withdrawal lines but outside of assigned sites.”

The latest satellite imagery from Digital Globe (catalog ID 102001005CAD9B00) further documents the ongoing usage of the facility and also quite likely a violation of heavy weaponry within the withdrawal lines. Digital Globe imagery showing the area on Wednesday, March 15, 2017 shows multiple armored vehicles in the camp area in the northern part of the training facility. With some certainly we can assess that more than 30 of them are tanks. Additionally, around 20 objects – identified as likely being D30 howitzers – are visible also in the imagery. The presence of the later would be a violation of the agreed withdrawal lines.

Camp area in the northern part of the training facility, 15.03.2017, Digital Globe / NextView License


It is not possible to verify the locations of the photographs shared by @GirkinGirkin allegedly showing the tanks in the area near Buhaivka, as the images do not show discernible features allowing a clear geolocation. However, the claim that tanks are in the area of Buhaivka is documented by the most current satellite imagery from March 15, 2017, and can therefore be considered as confirmed. Additionally, it is also possible that howitzers were positioned in this facility on that day.

Article researched and written by Klement Anders

Bellingcat Investigation Team

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    • Simon Barnes

      To what?? I don’t need a whole page to tell me the difference between T 72s and T 64s probably fog gotten more than you know. The original pictures of this thread show a supposed Russian training camp in the Ukraine, they show the same person standing in front of a T 64BV and a T 64 bulat (or BM1) the Bulat is only used by the Ukrainians so the T 64 are Ukrainian then so must be the MT LBs. as I have already stated, I have no doubts that the Russians are supplying the separatists, but I have seen no proof anywhere of Russian units in the Ukraine. The Ukrainian army can’t cope with the separatists, how the hell are they going to cope with the Russian army?

      • Eugen

        Are you sure that there were any Bulats captured? I remember that there were some evidence for that.
        Also, the person on photos wears new Russian camo, for me it’s not likely that Ukrainians are wearing this, at least these days.

        • Simon Barnes

          Captured and used by the Russian army? Why would they use a technically inferior vehicle to what they already have? That and getting any spare parts would be impossible as the Ukraine manufactures them, so what’s the point? You know TV programmes get examined down to the minutest detail and yet stuff like this is blindly accepted without a thought! And no he is not wearing the latest Russian gear either, the Ratnik is a completely different style and pattern.

      • Dennis

        Proper way would be to say Ukraine and not the Ukraine. Also, if you have seen no proof of russian units in Ukraine you did not look. There are dozens of captured Russian tanks (with serial numbers etc) brought and exposed to public in central Kiev.

  1. emmanuel

    “show me a Russian vehicle ”: – Russian T 90 – Russian drone – Russian btr 82a – Russian pantsir S1 – Russian BMP 97 Vystrel

    Russia’s 200th Motorized Infantry Brigade in the Donbass

    • Simon Barnes

      And still you don’t answer the question! What agenda are you pushing here? Certainly not the truth, nowhere have I denied that the Russians are supplying the separatists, or that maybe Russian volunteers are there. I will say it again so that you might understand, the original pictures of this thread show blatantly Ukrainian vehicles being passed off as Russian, if you are doing that why should I believe anything else you write??

      • emmanuel

        What the hell are you talking about? Have you read the article? Where in the article “blatantly Ukrainian vehicles being passed off as Russian”?

        • Simon Barnes

          You know, if you are having problems understanding English? Or are you trying to tell me the Bulat is Russian?, interesting note though, on the BTR 82A video that well known Russian and Ukrainian phrase “Allah Akbah” is heard, does that mean the rumours are true and the Ukraine are training Al Qaeda fighters?

          • Simply smarter than you

            Ever heard or Pro Russian chechens fighting for the terrorists in ukraine? They say their “Death” unit fighting Ukrainian forces has 300 people, mostly former state security troops in the mainly-Muslim region where Moscow waged two wars against Islamic insurgents and which is now run by a Kremlin-backed strongman.

  2. Simon barnes

    Change your username, because you’re not in anyway, yes I have heard of Chechens fighting, for both sides, so your point is rather mute, shame I forgot to turn off notifications, you could have had your little victory.


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