Russia Blows Up Farm Equipment, Claims They’re Leopard Tanks
Russia’s bogus ‘Leopard hunt’ in Ukraine is the latest in a long line of easily disproven propaganda claims.
The Russian Ministry of Defense has released a video that it says shows Ukrainian armored vehicles, including at least one German-made Leopard tank, being destroyed. However, the footage, which appears to have been shot via the targeting system on a Ka-52 Alligator attack helicopter, shows anti-tank guided missiles being fired on civilian farming equipment. This would not be the first time Russian officials have tried to pass off sloppy propaganda like this.
The footage, seen in the Tweet below, was released along with the official claims via Russian state media outlet RIA Novosti earlier today. The complete video contains two distinct clips. The first shows a number of vehicles in an open field, one of which is then targeted and destroyed by a missile. The second shows an indiscernible object also blown apart by a missile.
Though the clips are very low quality, experts and observers were quick to point out visible and distinctive features on the vehicles in the first portion of the footage that shows them to be combine harvesters and agricultural sprayers. The object in the latter portion of the video is more difficult to conclusively identify, but it appears small and certainly does not look like a tank.
This all follows Russian government claims that dozens of Ukrainian armored vehicles, including eight Leopard tanks and three French-made AMX-10RC armored cars, were destroyed recently in fighting linked to what looks to be the opening phases of Ukraine's long-planned counteroffensive.
There has been no evidence, so far, to substantiate any Ukrainian Leopard tank losses. Pictures have emerged on social media that do appear to show AMX-10RCs at least being targeted, if not damaged or destroyed. The War Zone has not been able to independently confirm where or when those images were taken or exactly what they show.
Ukraine's military certainly does have Leopard 2 tanks of multiple variants, which it first began receiving in February, as well as AMX-10RCs. The country's armed forces are also set to get older Leopard 1s. These are among a still-growing array of Western tanks and other armored vehicle types that have been delivered by Kyiv's foreign partners since Russia launched its all-out invasion in February 2022.
Especially in the context of Ukraine's counteroffensive, which now appears to have begun, it is not at all surprising that Russia would want to at least claim to have knocked out some of its opponent's most modern and capable armored vehicles. There are obvious morale-boosting and propaganda benefits of demonstrating the Russian military's ability to destroy higher-end Western-supplied weapon systems like the Leopard 2.
The desire for examples of victories over Western tanks, specifically, might be even more pronounced given that Ukrainian forces have very publicly destroyed and captured a number of T-90M Proryv-3 (Breakthrough-3) tanks. The T-90M Proryv-3 is the most modern tank in frontline Russian service.
There is perhaps a certain layer of irony here, as well, given Ukrainian farmers' now-iconic usage of tractors and other farming equipment to haul off damaged and abandoned Russian armored vehicles as the initial phases of Russia's invasion stalled out.
Regardless, this is hardly the first time the Russian government has put out lazy and easily disproven propaganda claims since the current stage of the conflict in Ukraine began last year. This was a feature of Russian misinformation and disinformation campaigns targeting the country even before then.
In fact, the Russian Ministry of Defense has done something directly analogous to its claims about the video released today. In September 2022, it put out another video that it said showed a Ka-52 attacking a barge full of Ukrainian special operators. The actual target was quickly identified as an abandoned bridge pylon in the middle of the Dnipro River.
In the past, Russia's Ministry of Defense has also claimed to have destroyed more U.S.-made M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) than the Ukrainians have ever received and blown up American-donated Bradley Fighting Vehicles months before they were delivered.
It is, of course, worth noting that Leopard 2 tanks, like any other weapon system Ukraine has received from its Western partners, are not invincible. Losses can and should be expected to occur if Ukraine employs them actively in combat.
So far, at least from what emerged to date, Russia's 'leopard hunts' look to have come up short.
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