Troopers from the Ukrainian combat unit the Kremlin loves most to hate, the Azov Brigade, grabbed one of Russia’s most modern tanks and drove it off the battlefield in a high-risk combat raid.

Drone video published by the controversial unit, formally called the 12th “Azov” Special Purpose Brigade of the National Guard of Ukraine, showed two Azov fighters clamber aboard an abandoned Russian T-72B3M tank, crank up its engine, and head for friendly lines.

Fact-Checks by Kyiv Post with Azov Brigade official spokespersons, individual members of the unit, and materials published by the adjacent 95th Air Assault Brigade confirmed the nighttime snatch-and-grab took place largely as reported widely in Ukrainian media.

Azov fighters "Tenor" (L) and "Baydar" (R) pose in front of a captured Russian T-72B3M tank in video published by their unit on April 7. According to Azov Brigade the pair, both experienced tankers, infiltrated into no-mans-land and repaired the broken vehicle abandoned by its crew in fighting on April 4. Battlefield video, geolocation and other soldiers in the unit confirmed the tank’s capture.

Advertisement

According to those accounts, the incident took place on April 7 following a failed Russian armored assault to the east of the village of Terny, in a northeastern section of Ukraine’s Donetsk region.  Elements of the Azov Brigade had been deployed in the sector since Fall 2023.

Spain Pledges 1 bln in Military Aid to Kyiv as Zelensky Visits
Other Topics of Interest

Spain Pledges 1 bln in Military Aid to Kyiv as Zelensky Visits

Zelensky's visit comes as Ukraine has been battling a Russian ground offensive in the Kharkiv region which began on May 10 in Moscow's biggest territorial advance in 18 months.

Images published by the adjacent 95th Air Assault Brigade showed a Russian armored column of 15-20 tanks and infantry fighting vehicle driving across mostly bare terrain before coming under artillery fire, and then being hit with swarms of FPV drones and anti-tank missiles.

Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) statements claimed at least 11 Russian vehicles were knocked out or burned in the April 4 ambush. Video published by the 95th Brigade, and reviewed by Kyiv Post, shows at least 16 Russian tanks or armored personnel carriers moving along a dirt road and attempting to deploy in terrain geolocated to farm fields some two kilometers east of the Terny village.

Advertisement

Kyiv Post screen grab from video published by Ukraine’s Azov Brigade of an accurate artillery strike in the middle of a Russian armored column on April 4. Kyiv Post geolocated the images to farm fields to the east of the village of Terny, Donetsk region. Blurring is by a Ukrainian military censor.

One of the tanks attempts to escape but the crew abandons the vehicle after colliding with a BMP armored infantry carrier, the video shows. FPV drones reportedly later hunted down and killed the three crewmembers.

Kyiv Post screen grab from video published by Ukraine’s Azov Brigade. Image shows a wide-screen shot of a Russian BMP infantry fighting vehicle (L) and a Russian T-72B3M tank (R). Both were abandoned by their crews following an unsuccessful Russian armored attack on April 5. Ukrainian infantry later recovered the tank. Kyiv Post geolocated the images to farm fields to the east of the village Terny, Donetsk region. Blurring is by a Ukrainian military censor.Ukrainian infantry later recovered the tank. Kyiv Post geolocated the images to farm fields to the east of the village Terny, Donetsk region. Blurring is by a Ukrainian military censor.

Advertisement

Night-time video recorded over the same battlefield shows two figures climbing into the tank, later identified as a late-model T-72B3M. The engine visibly starts, and the tank later is shown to be driving into the Ukraine Armed Forces (AFU)-held village of Terny, at the approximate grid 49.089574, 37.969339, Kyiv Post review found.

A YouTube video published by the Azov Brigade on April 7 identified and showed interviews with fighters with the battle call signs “Tenor” and “Baydar”, who took credit driving the Russian vehicle to Ukrainian lines in a nocturnal raid taking place in no-man’s-land.

Advertisement

The Russian tank was damaged in daylight fighting from an explosion but once the driver’s compartment was cleaned out and batteries were replaced, the vehicle started and drove back to Ukrainian lines without problems, the Ukrainian tank operator Baydar told an interviewer.

Kyiv Post screen grab from Ukrainian army FPV drone video moments before a kamikaze aircraft struck a Russian T-72 tank during combat on April 4, and geolocated to farm fields to the east of the village of Terny, Donetsk region. Aftermarket anti-drone shielding is visible on the sides and top of the tank turret. Ukrainian infantry later evacuated an abandoned T-72B3M from the battlefield. It was not this vehicle.

Sappers preceded the raiders on the night April 5-6 to clear the route to the tank and the vehicle itself for booby traps, and the following evening infantry secured the area for the Ukrainian tank mechanics to board the vehicle, repair it, and drive it away, Tenor, a tank company vice commander, told an interviewer.

Field operations including reconnaissance, planning, repeated visits to the tank, and transport of a 70 kg tank battery – by men on foot more than a kilometer - to the vehicle took the better part of three days, with dozens of soldiers and technicians involved he said. Russian forces did not interfere with the evacuation, but once inside Terny the operators drove the T-72 into a deep bomb crater and almost got stuck, images showed. Tenor said some 35 shells hit around the village during the evacuation.

Advertisement

Kyiv Post screen grab from video published by Ukraine’s Azov Brigade of anti-drone jamming equipment including a Chinese-manufactured generator installed aboard a Russian T-72B3M tank abandoned by its crew during an attack on April 5. Kyiv Post geolocated the images to farm fields to the east of the village Terny, Donetsk region. Blurring is by a Ukrainian military censor.

The T-72B3M (M=modernized, Russian-модернизированный) is the Kremlin’s standard first-line main battle tank. Costing a reported $2.5 million a vehicle and first fielded in 2022, the weapons system boasts anti-tank missiles fired through the cannon, updated reactive armor, a Relikt defense system designed to destroy incoming missiles and drones, and a new diesel engine putting out almost twice the horsepower (1130 HP) of previous models.

Advertisement

According to the manufacturer Uralvagonzavod, sensors and fire control computers onboard the T-72B3M allow it to reliably hit a moving target at ranges above two kilometers with the first shot.

Since 2014 Russian Federation state information platforms have pushed the narrative that most members of the Azov Brigade are neo-Nazis and extremist Ukrainian nationalists. Independent news platforms including Kyiv Post have found little compelling evidence to support the Kremlin claims. A primary plank of Azov ideology, dating back to Russia’s first invasion of Ukraine in 2014, is absolute Ukrainian independence from Russia. The view is anathema to Moscow.

According to Azov statements, the captured T-72B3M can be fully repaired and will be assigned to the brigade tank battalion for combat service against its former owners.

To suggest a correction or clarification, write to us here
You can also highlight the text and press Ctrl + Enter