Lieutenant Colonel Andrij Bohraniuk is a military man of many talents. He ensures the supply of fuel for hundreds of vehicles, food for 2,500 troops on the front line, and keeps track of shells and bullets. Pretty much every tank, truck, howitzer, jeep, trailer, generator, or electrical device that breaks and needs fixing in a 50-kilometer circle is his personal problem.

But the job Bohraniuk enjoys the most is repossessing then towing away tanks and infantry fighting vehicles from the Russian army. The idea is that their armed and violent owners will only find out after their ride’s been jacked.

So far, so good.

Bohraniuk commands the maintenance and supply element of the Ukraine Armed Forces (UAF) 50th Motorized Infantry Brigade. Visited by a Kyiv Post reporter in late May, Bohraniuk pointed out his pride and joy: a multi-purpose armored infantry carrier (MT-LB), formerly operated by the Russian Army but now serving the UAF as his personal tow vehicle.


“When we grabbed it, we realized it was new – the radios, engine, everything in perfect condition,” explained Bohraniuk proudly. “It’s close to perfect for when we go out after their abandoned stuff.”

At 35 years old, Bohraniuk is a very young Lieutenant Colonel. His career started in tanks, but when wartime came, the army put him in charge of over 500 men and women, including food, maintenance, vehicles, ammunition and general supplies for the 50th Brigade.

Lieutenant Colonel Andrij Bohraniuk, commander of 50th Mechanized Infantry Brigade’s supply and maintenance battalion, reacts to distant explosions during a walk-though of the Brigade maintenance parking lot. (MAKS PILIPENKO)

Pilfering the Kremlin’s fighting machines from the battlefield started out as a sideline activity and mainly from necessity. A long-standing headache for UAF maintainers has been worn-out equipment which started out life as Soviet T-72s, BMPs and D-30 cannons not designed for lengthy use. These weapons, often older than the soldiers now operating them, are the tools the 50th Brigade must use to stop the Russian Army.

“The Russian stuff is a lot newer and more modern,” Bohraniuk said. “There’s literally no way we could keep fighting if we didn’t venture out and hunt down their equipment to use as replacements and spare parts.”


For Bohraniuk, a typical repo mission begins with phone call to the brigade dispatch office reporting a busted or broken Russian Army vehicle at a grid coordinate within the brigade’s area of responsibility. Coordinating efforts are then put in place with frontline units (which may have originally shot up the unit), then one or two tow trucks head out.

Usually, by this point, the Russians have gone and the tow is reasonably simple. But if it’s complicated or dangerous, Bohraniuk takes personal charge.

Bohraniuk’s most complex tow operation in the past two months involved four MTLB infantry carriers the Russians had hidden in haystacks. These were positioned close enough to the fighting line that if a tow crew got close, they would be mortared. The MTLBs were also on private land that was owned by a woman who was possibly pro-Russian. Either way, she definitely didn’t want the UAF dragging the valuable scrap metal off her property without payment.

The mortar problem was overcome by attempting recovery under the cover of darkness, then yanking the MTLBs out of the haystacks one by one, night after night. The police met with the landowner and, after a discussion about patriotism and wartime property laws, she relented, said Bohraniuk.

Russian Federation (RF) BMD-2 airborne assault infantry vehicle, captured by Ukraine’s 50th Mechanized Infantry Brigade. The Kyiv Post observed the vehicle during a walk-through of the Brigade maintenance base. Vehicles are concealed to deter Russian Federation air strikes. (MAKS PILIPENKO)

Two UAF mechanics, one an eyewitness to a purloined MTLB returning to base, confirmed this account. Three of the MTLBs went on to serve with the UAF, whilst the fourth, as observed by the Kyiv Post, became a hulk slowly cannibalized into oblivion for spare parts.

“It’s not like we have any choice,” one of the mechanics said. “It’s not really right that our army has to rely on the Russians for parts, but that’s what we have to do.”

Bohraniuk plans to stay in military service after the war. His wife, like him, is a Kyiv native. When the Russians pushed towards the capital in late February, she left Ukraine for safety and is currently undertaking her import-export job from Italy. He hasn’t seen her in months and misses her greatly.

“I’m not sure my wife would understand what I do now,” he said. “I steal vehicles for a living.”


NOTE: Kyiv Post journalists were accompanied by a UAF press liaison officer while researching this story. Brigade command requested its unit designation and soldier identities not be made public for security reasons. The 50th Brigade is a pseudonym as are the names and identities of military personnel.

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