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Exclusive: Charred tanks in Ukraine point to Russian involvement

Exclusive: Charred tanks in Ukraine point to Russian involvement

The burnt-out remains of dozens of tanks and armored vehicles in fields near this small village bear witness to the ferocity of a battle that turned the tide of the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Most of the tanks were used by the government forces routed in August near Horbatenko, 40 km (25 miles) southeast of the rebel stronghold of Donetsk, a defeat so demoralizing that days later Kiev agreed a ceasefire with pro-Russian separatists.

But among the debris Reuters found the blackened carcasses of what military experts have since identified as two Russian army tanks, supporting statements by Kiev and the West that the rebels were backed by troops and equipment sent by Moscow.

Moscow denies the accusations though the rebels had been on the brink of defeat until late August, when the Ukrainian government says they received an injection of soldiers and weapons from Russia.

Reuters showed photographs of the two badly damaged tanks, one of which had lost its turret, to four independent military experts, who said they were of a type used exclusively by the Russian army.

At least one, they agreed, was a T-72BM – a Russian-made modification of a well known Soviet tank. This version of the tank, they said, is not known to have been exported.

“It is operated by the Russian Army in large numbers, but crucially it is not known to have been exported or operated outside of Russia,” Joseph Dempsey, a military analyst for the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, wrote in late August when a tank like that was discovered on grainy footage of rebel convoy.

“The presence of this variant in Ukraine therefore strongly supports the contention that Russia is supplying arms to separatist forces,” Dempsey said.

Such remarks clearly undermine Russian denials of direct involvement in the conflict in Ukraine to ensure Moscow maintains some influence and make governing Ukraine difficult as Kiev charts a Westward political and economic course.

Read More:Exclusive: Charred tanks in Ukraine point to Russian involvement | Reuters.

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