​Ukraine replenishes Donbass tank supplies amid ceasefire

Members of the Ukrainian armed forces ride in tanks near Artemivsk, eastern Ukraine (Reuters / Gleb Garanich)
Amid the efforts to bring warring parties in eastern Ukraine to the negotiating table, Kiev has announced fresh supplies of tanks to its forces in Donbass, jeopardizing the truce reached by the Minsk deal which requires the withdrawal of heavy weaponry.

Under the internationally struck deal in Minsk last month, the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics have already fulfilled some of the obligations and pulled back their heavy weaponry from the contact line with Kiev’s forces.

READ MORE: OSCE confirms Donetsk & Lugansk militias withdrawing heavy weapons from contact line

The Ukrainian military are so far lagging behind the rebel forces’ strive to withdraw artillery but has almost completed the “first step” of the pullback. Ukraine’s Defense Ministry spokesperson told Sputnik that the army has withdrawn everything they have declared.

“We have taken the first step and brought 100mm caliber artillery to the designated distance, which is 25 kilometers away on an approved border arrangements under Minsk agreements. Therefore, we are ready to continue to withdraw heavy weapons but only in case that other party will begin withdrawing its artillery systems,” Alexander Motuzyanyk said.

The latest special OSCE monitoring mission report noted that the security situations in Donetsk and Lugansk regions is “relatively calm” with some instances of “distant shelling and gunfire” heard by the observers. And while all parties concerned agree that the truce is holding, Kiev is taking active steps to reequip itself.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian state-owned industrial defense corporation, Ukroboronprom, has announced that it has transferred a batch of freshly overhauled T64B tanks to the Ministry of Defense and the National Guard. The tanks, are“ready to carry out missions in the anti-terrorist operation zone,” the concern said, referring to the so called ATO that Kiev began in April last year following the uprising in the east against the coup-imposed authorities.

The actual count of new tanks was not mentioned, but the supplier noted that they passed refurbishment at the Kharkov armor repair plant. The T-64 were equipped with special ‘contact’ protective armor, that the supplier claims, provides protection against modern anti-tank weapons.

The need to offer special protection to the T-64 tanks manufactured at a factory in Kharkov became apparent after a huge loss of the machinery destroyed and abandoned in battles in the Donbass, particularly in the Debaltsevo area.

“In Ukraine, hulls of T-64 tanks are often severely damaged, with entire pieces of armor plucked out, and you can see that the damage is done along welding seams of the hull, while the rest of the armor plates left out bent. The most obvious explanation to the damages of Ukrainian armored vehicles is the poor quality of manufacturing,” a Latvian military source told Vesti.

According to the investments adviser to Ukroboronprom's CEO, Nadiia Stechyshyna, in less than a year Ukraine replaced 70 percent of the armored vehicle parts previously imported from Russia.

“Nobody actually paid any attention to the way the Army was equipped for the last 23 years. Everybody was feeling safe and secure, so there was basically zero investment in the armed forces. So sometimes what we are doing right now is getting back to the basics,” Stechyshyna, told Defense News.

And while Kiev is scrapping everything it can to reequip its military, Donbass plans to use the metal junk to rebuild its infrastructure. The trophies of war that can’t be repaired or dismantled for spare parts will be smelted in the electric arc furnace of the Donetsk Steel plant.

“See for yourself. One tank is 40 tons, and ten tanks is already 400 tons,” the head of DPR's heavy industry Yuri Nikanorov told Rossiiskaya Gazeta.

At least 60,000 tons of scrap metal will be imported from Russia in a desperate effort to rebuild the war-torn Donbass region, Nikanorov said. The remaining, some 30 thousand tons, is expected to be scrapped from destroyed tanks, artillery systems and other machinery left on the battlefield by Ukrainian forces.