Ukrainian separatists snatched up a new set of weapons for their arsenal last week. But, this time at least, Russia is far from blame. Rebels in the town of Donetsk took a World War Two-era T-54 tank and two Howitzer artillery pieces straight out of the city’s museum commemorating the Second World War.
Speaking to the news agency on the condition of anonymity, the guard working at the museum when the rebels waltzed in said, “They had written authorization to take them away.” Who gave said permission, nevermind would even have official authority over the museum collections in the separatist-held city, remains unclear.
The guard said that the rebels loaded the tank and weapons into a large truck, adding that, “They took the tank that was least damaged.” It’s doubtful that that tank and the Howitzers are in working order after not having been used operationally for decades. However, the guard said, “I think they’re going to use them to fight.”
The separatists have demonstrated great artistry in reviving geriatric weapons systems thus far in the conflict. A Youtube video shows them revving up another World War Two-era tank—this time a Stalin-vintage example—which had sat out in the elements atop a monument in the town of Kostyantynivka for several decades. Thick smoke can be seen pouring from the tanks’ exhaust pipes. Though, it remains unknown whether the band ever got it to budge.
Visitors to the popular museum were stunned on Friday, according to the report. One father who had brought his son to visit the museum not knowing of the rebels’ actions told the AFP, “Can you believe it? They’re even stealing museum exhibits now.”
The tank and howitzers were taken as the Ukrainian National Guard began a large push towards Donetsk with their own (rather more modern) armored vehicles. Clashes on Sunday occurred within 10 kilometers of the Malasia Airlines flight 17 crash site, prompting a ceasefire within a 40-kilometer (25-mile) radius of the site on Monday in order for Dutch and international regulators to continue their investigation and search for bodies.
Whether continued fallout from the ill-fated 777—which, according to US intelligence, was shot down using a Russian-supplied missile system—is holding up further armaments and leading to desperate measures such as those at the Donetsk museum remains unclear.