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Kavkaz-2020 exercises: Russian T-90A tank accidentally knocked out near Astrakhan

Russian media, several bloggers and other social media sources reported that on September 16, 2020, during military exercises at the Kapustin Yar training range in the Astrakhan Oblast, a Russian T-90A tank was accidentally hit by a 9M113M rocket from a Konkurs ATGM mounted on a BMP-2.

According to one version, the BMP-2 crew fired a shot and hit the side of the T-90A in thick dust сonditions created by actively maneuvering fighting vehicles. According to another version, the shot was a high-explosive projectile fired from another tank. Allegedly, a box with tools and accessories saved the side armor of the T-90A from full penetration. Nevertheless, it is reported that the tank commander (in some sources, he is called Zamir Urkachaev) received burns to his face and hands. Russian Ministry of Defense has not yet officially commented on this information. However, several photographs of the accident’s aftermath have appeared on the web.

It is also known that on September 16, servicemen from Belarus and China arrived at the Kapustin Yar training range to participate in the Kavkaz-2020 exercise. A relevant video was published on the official channel of the Russian Ministry of Defense. It is reported that the main phase of the Kavkaz-2020 exercise will take place from September 21 to 26.

Background information: Exactly 3 years ago, on September 18, 2017, a 9M729 cruise missile (NATO reporting name SSC-8) was launched from the Kapustin Yar training range as part of the Zapad-2017 exercise. The rocket flew 480 km. Apparently this event was one of the main reasons [1] that drove the United States in 2019 out of the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate and Short-Range Missiles (INF Treaty) after a series of Russia’s other violations of the terms of this treaty.

Official information on tank range practice from the Russian Ministry of Defense

On September 17, the website of the Russian Ministry of Defense reported about the exercises of tank crews at two other training ranges. According to the official data [2], T-90A tank crews at the Prudboy training range in the Volgograd Oblast, practiced engagement of the opposing force using the tank carousel tactics as part of a bilateral battalion tactical exercise. The essence of the tactics is, when a tank is firing from a position, another one moves in from a flank preparing to take its firing position. As the shooting sectors, the sequence of target raising, and the distance to them are not known to the crews in advance, this could cause the incidents described above.

Also, the Russian Ministry of Defense reported [3] that 10 crews of T-72B3 tanks, part of a tank company of the army corps of the Black Sea Fleet, fired at the Angarsky range. Tankmen performed firing in motion on rough terrain during a conditional oncoming battle. Also, the crews of the T-72B3 tanks conducted firing practice at targets simulating armored vehicles and artillery systems of an opposing force.

Russian tanks T-90A and T-72B3 in combat in the Donbas

The database of OSINT investigations [4] of the InformNapalm international intelligence community contains evidence of the use of uniquely Russian types of military hardware in the hostilities in the Donbas. These types of weapons were not in service with the Ukrainian army, therefore, they could not have been captured in battle. Russian modifications of T-90A and T-72B3 main battle tanks are among these types of weapons.

Read more: Tanks for Peskov: Russian modifications found in the occupied territories of Donbas [5]

On September 3, 2014, on the territory of the Luhansk Oblast, local residents recorded a convoy of Russian military equipment consisting of 25 vehicles. Two T-72B3 tanks [6] and other fighting vehicles were identified in the convoy.

According to the data about Russian weapons in the Donbas collected on the Ukrainian section of Wikipedia [7] with reference to OSINT investigations of the InformNapalm international volunteer community, postings of investigative blogger @Askai707 and other media reports, it is known that in the battles near Ilovaisk in August 2014, the Ukrainian military destroyed several T-72B3 tanks of the 6th Armored Brigade (military unit 54096 [8]) of Russian Army. In the summer of 2014, the battalion-tactical group of the Russian invasion forces of 17th Motorized Rifle Brigade [9] (military unit 65384) was also equipped with T-72B3 tanks. Also in the August battles near Luhansk, Russian 200 Motorized Rifle Brigade [10] (military unit 08275) operated T-72B3 tanks. Tanks of the same modification were also used by the 6th Armored Brigade in the battles at Debaltseve in the winter of 2015. British journalist and pro-Russian propagandist Graham Phillips [11] also accidentally showed a convoy of these tanks in the village of Sanzharivka. It is also known about one destroyed Russian T-72B3 tank in winter battles near Debaltseve close to Vosme Bereznia village.

Russian T-90A tanks have also been spotted in the Donbas on several occasions.
Tanks of this modification were filmed [12] in the area of the railway crossing close to the village of Lyse near Novosvitlivka (Luhansk Oblast) in August 2014.

The photos found by [13] InformNapalm  OSINT investigators in the profile of Russian serviceman Vitaly Marakasov in October 2014 provide one of the clearest proofs of Russian military invasion. The photo showed a whole convoy of T-90A tanks of the 136th Motorized Rifle Brigade [14] (military unit 63354 [14]) of the Russian Army, which was moving along a dirt road near the Fabrychne settlement close to the Luhansk airport. This photo also appeared on the cover of Donbas in Flames [15] guide book, prepared by the Prometheus Security Environment Research Center.

The war in the Donbas has been going on for many years. Russia continues to officially deny its active participation in the hostilities, despite a huge amount of the incriminating information collected over the years and indicating direct participation of Russian military personnel, weaponry and equipment in the aggression against Ukraine. And while there is a temporary lull in the Donbas, Russian tanks continue to burn, even during exercises on the Russian territory.

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