Russia’s president Vladimir Putin, 70, is taking tanks as old as he is out of storage in his desperate bid to crush Ukraine on the battlefield.
A video showing long obsolete Soviet-era T-54B and T-55A tanks – designed to be used in the armies of Soviet tyrant Josef Stalin – on a train carried across Russia, presumably destined for the frontlines of the war, has emerged.
It comes with Putin having already raided museums and storage depots for retired T-62 battle tanks, which halted production 12 years ago.
The geriatric T-54 was originally produced by Stalin after the Second World War in 1946, but Putin seems to be sending to war an updated version from the early 1950s – some 70 years old, the same age as the dictator.
Putin is fond of boasting of the prowess of his military capabilities. However, since his forces crossed the border into Ukraine over a year ago, his armies have been exposed as being outdated both tactically and in terms of equipment.
Pictured: A still grab from a video showing long obsolete Soviet-era T-54B and T-55A tanks on a train carried across Russia, presumably destined for the frontlines of the war in Ukraine
But it is unlikely the Kremlin envisioned sending dated tanks to the front lines when Putin first launched his military operation in February 2022.
Reports suggest Putin believed Russia’s superior military force would simply overwhelm the minnow that is Ukraine in a matter of days, allowing him to overthrow Volodymyr Zelensky’s government to be replaced with a pro-Russian regime.
It is clear, however – with Russia’s forces now pinned down in the east after being pushed back by Ukraine’s fierce defence – that the Kremlin underestimated Kyiv’s resolve while overestimating the capabilities of its own forces.
Now, footage emerging from Russia suggests Putin is being forced to dig deep into his reserves to keep his troops equipped to continue their stalled invasion.
In addition to the video of the train carrying Soviet-era T-54B and T-55A tanks, the Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT) separately reported on T54s and T55s being removed from a tank graveyard in the Russian Far East.
They are being moved westward from Arsenyev in Primorsky region, where the 1295th Central Tank Reserve and Storage Base is located – according to the CIT, which is an independent investigative organisation originating from Russia.
‘The first modifications of the T-54, according to CIT, were adopted by the Soviet army in the second half of the 1940s, and the T-55 in 1958,’ said the team’s report.
‘Among the key shortcomings of these machines, analysts cite the lack of rangefinders and ballistic computers, primitive sights, and inadequate gun stabilisation in the T-54.’
The deployment indicates ‘serious problems with the provision of Russian troops with armoured vehicles’. It is unclear if the antiquated tanks will be repurposed before they are deployed with troops in the war unleashed by Putin in Ukraine.
Some estimates suggest more than 100,000 T-54/T-55 tanks were build across the Soviet Union, China, Poland and Czechoslovakia. During the cold war, Soviet tanks never directly faced their NATO adversaries in combat in Europe.
Russia, as well as Ukraine, has relied heavily on the Soviet-era T-72 tanks in Ukraine, which have been destroyed in their thousands in more than a year of fighting.
Russia has also deployed around 1,000 of its advanced T-90 tank in Ukraine, compared to around 5,000 T-72s. The £4million T-90 is supposed to be one of the best tanks in the world, and has upgraded armour and missile protection systems – compared to the T-72 – which in theory make it harder to destroy.
The geriatric T-54 was originally produced by Stalin after the Second World War in 1946, but Putin seems to be sending to war an updated version from the early 1950s – some 70 years old, the same age as the dictator. Pictured: Images from the Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT) analysing the models of tanks seen on the train heading towards Ukraine
It is understood that the tanks were being moved westward from Arsenyev in Primorsky region, where the 1295th Central Tank Reserve and Storage Base is located – according to the CIT, which is an independent investigative organisation originating from Russia
T-54/T-55 vs T-62: Reports from Russia suggest Vladimir Putin is bringing Soviet-era models of tanks out of retirement and storage to bolster his heavy armour numbers in Ukraine
However, since Russia invaded Ukraine, countless T-90M Russian tank have been destroyed by rocket launchers and western Javelin anti-tank guided missiles.
It was reported earlier this month that Putin’s generals were bringing T-62 tanks – some of which had been placed in museums – out of retirement for use in Ukraine.
The later T-62s are reportedly getting a makeover in a round-the-clock factory in Chita, Siberia. Some of the tanks being revamped at the 103rd Plant may be 60 years old, dating from the time Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev.
Russia halted T-62 production 12 years ago, but may still have as many as 2,500 of them held in stores and museums – giving Putin a huge but dated arsenal.
War fanatic Lt-Gen Andrey Gurulev, 55, a prominent state TV personality, Putin propagandist and MP, said there was method in the redeployment of the tanks.
On a visit to the plant that is found six time zones east of Moscow, he said: ‘Tanks, more than 50 years old, are being transformed into modern, normal machines capable of carrying out tasks and meeting the current frontline challenges.
‘Look at the finished products. A tank battalion has already been shipped to the front,’ he claimed, while standing in front of some of the hardware.
He boasted: ‘These T-62 tanks are completely modernised.’
They have new ‘engines, communication systems, control systems, thermal imagers, dynamic active protection’ is installed in the antiquated tank shells, he said.
‘So here is a completely different tank for today that can work.’
A former tank commander and Putin loyalist who now serves on the Russian parliament’s defence committee, Gurulev said the refashioned fighting machines were ‘no worse than modern ones’.
He said: ‘Our guys dismantle them, make them completely, and take off the turrets. They completely disassemble the machines. All the old units are removed. New ones are installed, upgraded.’
In order to motivate them, workers at the plant have been put on boosted pay – £750 a month – before unspecified bonuses.
Russia’s dated armoured vehicles could soon find themselves being operated by Russian crews as they come up against some of the West’s most advanced war machines on the battlefield.
On Tuesday, the US said it was speeding up its delivery of Abrams tanks to Ukraine, opting to send a refurbished older model that can be ready faster, with the aim of getting the 70-ton battle powerhouses to the war zone by the fall, the Pentagon said.
The original plan was to send Ukraine 31 of the newer M1A2 Abrams, which could have taken a year or two to build and ship.
But officials said the decision was made to send the older M1A1 version, which can be taken from Army stocks.
It was reporters last week that Vladimir Putin is desperately emptying Russian museums of obsolete T-62 tanks (pictured in a military history museum in Russia) to re-purpose them for his creaking war effort in Ukraine. They could soon come up against Western war machines
The obsolete Soviet-era T-62s have been shown being ‘modernised’ in a round-the-clock factory in Chita, Siberia, in a video that has emerged from Russia (pictured)
Pictured: Russian engineers are seen working on T-62 tanks and other hardware as Vladimir Putin works to bolster the military vehicles his forces have at their disposal in Ukraine
Pictured: A Russian T-62 tank is seen in a factory as it is fixed up to be used on the battlefield
Officials said the M1A1 also will be easier for Ukrainian forces to learn to use and maintain as they fight the invading Russian forces.
The US announced in January that it would send the tanks to Ukraine – after insisting for months that they were too complicated and too hard to maintain and repair.
The decision was part of a broader political maneuver that opened the door for Germany to announce it would send its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine and allow Poland and other allies to do the same.
The UK has also committed to sending several of its own Challenger 2 tanks.