Those Alleged Three Russian Tanks

The media is abuzz with claims that Russia has sent three T-64 tanks over the border in Ukraine. Reports the Wall Street Journal:

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization provided satellite imagery Saturday that appeared to reinforce Ukrainian and U.S. claims that Russian tanks had crossed into Ukraine in recent days.

On Thursday, senior Ukrainian officials, including President Petro Poroshenko,accused Russia of allowing tanks and heavy artillery to cross into Ukraine in what could be a significant escalation of the conflict.

. . .

Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said Thursday that a “column” of armored vehicles had crossed from Russia through border-control points controlled by separatists near the village of Dyakove in eastern Ukraine. He said three tanks went to the town of Snizhne, about 25 miles from Dyakove, one vehicle stayed at the border and two headed toward Horlivka.

The newly released images, which come from open sources including commercial satellite contractor DigitalGlobe Inc  and from videos posted on YouTube, were provided by a NATO military official. Most of the images are grainy and it is difficult to independently verify the details provided by the official.

Did Russia really send three tanks? Mark Galeotti has a good post questioning the whole incident, but concludes with uncertainty. I’m with him on that. But to further cast doubt on the appearance of Russian tanks, here’s a news item from Svobodnaya pressa from June 10 that claims that separatists in Lugansk seized three T-64s from the Ukrainian military:

In Lugansk three T-64 tanks were seized from Ukrainian forces. One of them successfully crossed the border at the crossing “Dolzhansk” on the border with Russia . . . The permission to cross the border into the Lugansk People’s Republic was given by representatives of the local police, who surrendered to the separatists.”

Another report from June 9 states:

According to Russian and Ukrainian media, citing reports from representatives from the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic, three T-64 Ukrainian tanks have fallen under their control.

It was reported that as a result of a drawn out battle in Lugansk, which lasted a day, Ukrainian forces were forced to retreat and abandon some heavy equipment and weapons, including three T-64 tanks.

Could these be the tanks everyone is talking about? Could be.