The Kremlin scores propaganda points with a display of captured tanks and armour ahead of the Victory Day parade

The Kremlin scores propaganda points with a display of captured tanks and armour ahead of the Victory Day parade
A captured Leopard tank on display in Victory Park in Moscow ahead of the annual Victory Day parade helps to score propaganda points and rally Russians support for Putin’s war in Ukraine. / bne IntelliNews
By bne IntelliNews May 8, 2024

An exhibition of captured military trophies has opened in Moscow, ahead of the May 9 annual Victory Day parade, showing off Nato armour and vehicles captured by Russian forces in the Ukraine conflict.

The damaged tanks and APCs have been used by the Kremlin propaganda machine to showcase the Russian army’s successes in the fight against Nato, as the Kremlin sells it, and belittle Western claims that Nato weapons are far superior to Russian-made materiel.

The highlights of the exhibition are a destroyed German-made Leopard and US-made Abrams main battle tanks, some of the most powerful tanks in the world. They were billed as gamechangers when they were first introduced to the war, but have proved to be ineffective. Several Leopards have been destroyed or damaged. The Abrams has been taken out of service after it was overwhelmed by swarms of cheap Russian-made drones.

To increase the propaganda effect, pro-Kremlin newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta reported that the barrel on the Leopard tank was bent so that it “looked like a defeated man.” Extra damage was done to the Abrams tanks as well, to increase visual effect, according to other reports.

The exhibition opened at the start of the long May holidays that start with Labour Day on May 1 and run until Victory Day May 9, when Russia celebrates the end of what is known as the Great Patriotic war, the defeat of the Nazis in WW2.

A reported 100,000 people have already visited the exhibition, held at Park Pobedy (Victory Park) in central Moscow. In all there are over 30 items of military equipment on display from 12 countries, including the US, Britain, Germany and France, The Bell reports, many of which bear visible bullet holes.

Trophies on parade

As Moscow prepares for its annual Victory Day parade on May 9, a collection of military vehicles captured from various conflicts are on display on Red Square, a propaganda coup for the Kremlin as the war in Ukraine increasingly goes Russia’s way.

The most famous of those is Leopard 2A6, which was destroyed near Stepove, Donetsk Oblast around October 2023 and was not recovered by Ukrainian forces for several months. It was eventually retrieved by Russian forces in April 2024 and transported to Moscow for the parade.

Another star attraction is the Abrams M1A1SA, which met a similar fate near Berdychi, Donetsk Oblast on March 5, 2024. The tank was destroyed by a combination of FPV drones, anti-tank guided missiles and artillery fire, with its wreckage recovered by Russian forces in April 2024.

Additional exhibits include the T-72AMT tank, captured in Kyiv Oblast in early March 2022 and since displayed in multiple Russian exhibitions, including "Army 2022." The US-made M88A1 recovery vehicle, damaged and abandoned by Ukrainian forces around Avdiivka in November 2023, was also recovered by Russian troops in April 2024 and will be displayed.

The first US-made Bradley M2, very popular with the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU), was captured by Russian forces after it was damaged by a mine explosion in February 2024 during battles in Avdiivka on February 17. It has been studied and paraded around Russia, eventually making its way to Moscow for the Victory Day display.

A slightly damaged Marder 1A3, abandoned in Severnoe on February 29, 2024, was later recovered and restored to running condition by Russian forces. This vehicle, along with others such as the М1064А3 mortar carrier and Ukrainian Triton-01 IMV, highlights the array of equipment now in Russian hands.