More than 40% of old Soviet tanks and armored personnel carriers were removed from storage during the war in Ukraine at the largest known base of mothballed military equipment, Vagzhanovo in Buryatia, fresh Google Earth satellite imagery shows.
The Moscow Times calculations based on Google Earth data show that the Vagzhanovo base in Buryatia is the largest in Russia. Vagzhanovo is located near Ulan-Ude and occupies about 13 square kilometers, which is much larger than the area of two dozen other known military equipment storage bases in Russia. The Moscow Times gathered information about their location from open sources: blogs of photographers, travelers, and media publications.
Five months before the full-scale war in Ukraine – in September 2021 – about 3,840 armored vehicles were stored in Vagzhanovo under the open sky, The Moscow Times calculated on the basis of Google Earth images. After 8 months of war – in November 2022 – about 2,600 armored vehicles remained at the base, and by May 2023 – about 2,270. Thus, during this time, 1570 or 40.8% of armored vehicles were removed from the base. Moreover, most of it (32%) left after mobilization was announced at the end of 2022.
According to the instructions of the Ministry of Defense, there are four categories of preservation of military equipment. The first category – the most valuable equipment – is stored in special ventilated and heated rooms, the second – in unheated hangars. The third category of preservation is storage under tents, and the fourth category is storage in the open air.
“Where there are tent shelters – there the equipment should be at least on the move. Under the open sky – what is not to be pitied,” explains military expert Pavel Luzin.
In Vagzhanovo the equipment was stored mainly in the open air. The images for November 2022 show that about half of the equipment was without turrets or had other signs of damage visible from the satellite. Similar signs can be seen on about half of the remaining equipment on the base by May 2023. The base also has 10 hangars, which, according to The Moscow Times, can accommodate up to 400 armored vehicles.
The Moscow Times found several large pictures of tanks stored there in the social networks of former servicemen of the Vagzhanovo base. Military experts interviewed identified them as T-62 tanks, which were produced in the Soviet Union from 1962 to 1975.