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Moscow Times: Over 40% of tanks removed from Russia’s largest storage site since Ukraine invasion

Satellite images show Russia has withdrawn 1570 tanks and armored vehicles from its largest known equipment storage base Vagzhanovo since February 2023, as it funnels old Soviet armor into the Ukraine war
Military base buryatiya Russia
The Vagzhanovo military equipment depot outside Ulan-Ude in the republic of Buryatia. Credit: Military Informant / VK
Moscow Times: Over 40% of tanks removed from Russia’s largest storage site since Ukraine invasion

More than 40% of old Soviet tanks and armored vehicles have been removed from Russia’s biggest known military equipment storage base in Buryatia since the invasion of Ukraine began, according to new satellite images analyzed by The Moscow Times.

The base, known as Vagzhanovo, occupies around 11 square km near Ulan-Ude, significantly larger than some two dozen other identified Russian equipment storage sites. In September 2021, approximately 3,840 units of armored vehicles were stored there under open skies, Moscow Times estimates based on Google Earth imagery.

By November 2022, around 2,600 remained, dropping to about 2,270 by May 2023.

This means some 1,570 vehicles, or 40.8%, have been taken from Vagzhanovo since the war started, with the bulk (32%) removed after mobilization was announced in late 2022. Tanks identified in photos posted by former base soldiers appear to be T-62s produced in the USSR from 1962-1975.

Military expert Pavel Luzin says outdated equipment stored outdoors is “what they don’t mind losing.” Around half of the vehicles in November images seemed damaged. The base has 10 hangars able to hold 400 units.

Rather than scrap hardware, Russia is refurbishing Soviet tanks, with sites like the 103rd Tank Repair Plant tasked with upgrading T-62s. Defense Minister Shoigu regularly visits factories modernizing mothballed equipment.

Expert Luzin says old tanks resurrected from storage are being used not just to replace Ukraine losses but also as ersatz artillery. They can also be cannibalized for parts.

Two Vagzhanovo-based army units saw heavy losses in February’s failed assault on Vuhledar, when Russia lost over 100 vehicles in three days, monitoring group Oryx said. Buryatia rights advocate Aleksandra Garmazhapova told Moscow Times many recent conscripts from the region were killed there.

Satellite data shows much of Vagzhanovo’s equipment shipped out around the time of the mobilization drive that fed those losses.

Note: The Russian army’s tank losses have long exceeded its active stocks, meaning that it is reliant on reanimating equipment in storage. Currently, Ukraine has destroyed 31% of Russia’s overall tank stocks, our analysis based on Ukraine’s General Staff losses and statistics by the Military Balance 2022 handbook says. 

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