Russia is bringing Cold War era tanks out of storage and looking to draft civilian ships  into the military as its war in Ukraine drags on and losses pile up. 

Observers first noticed the Russian T-62 tanks, first deployed in 1961, moving through the Melitopol railway station in southeast Ukraine. This is a Russian occupied territory near the frontlines where fighting is currently the heaviest. 

On May 23, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine mentioned the presence of T-62 as part of a briefing it posted on Facebook. “As a result of losses during hostilities, Russian enemy was forced to withdraw from storage T-62 tanks to recruit reserve battalion tactical groups that are being formed to be sent to Ukraine,” the post said.

Russian armor has been no match for Ukrainians using Javelins and other anti-tank weapons provided by the U.S. and NATO. Russia’s more modern T-72s, T-80s, and T-90s have been destroyed in the hundreds since it pushed deeper into Ukraine in February. The Kyiv Indepdent has counted more than 1,300 destroyed Russian tanks. Independent open-source intelligence investigators have visually confirmed 700 of those losses.

It’s a massive amount of lost tanks. Many have been felled by Javelins, Byraktar drone strikes, and other Ukrainian anti-tank weapons. Some were lost to incompetence. Russia lost an entire battalion trying to cross the Siverskyi Donets River earlier in May. As the Russian war machine was bogged down in the river, Ukraine struck at them with artillery. Moscow lost around 70 tanks and 400 soldiers trying to cross a river.

Sanctions have made it difficult for Russia to acquire the materials it needs to produce more tanks so it’s dusting off the old ones it has in storage. First deployed in 1961, the T-62 has been used in Russia’s wars in Afghanistan, Chechnya, and now Ukraine. Like newer models, it also has weaknesses that make it a good target for loitering munitions and won’t fare better than the machines Russia has already lost.

But beggars can’t be choosers. As Russia dusts off its old tanks it also looks to fishing vessels and icebreakers to fill out its Navy. As spotted by The Barents Observer, the Russian Navy is updating its military doctrine with an eye towards mobilizing non-military vessels. “Fundamentally new provisions of the doctrine relate to mobilization training and mobilization readiness in the field of maritime activities,” said a translation of a Russian government website. “This will make it possible to introduce civilian ships and crews into the Navy, to ensure the functioning of maritime infrastructure in wartime.” The Russian Navy has also fared badly during the war with Ukraine. Ukraine, a country with no Navy, destroyed the Moskva, Russia’s flagship in the Black Sea.

The dusting off of 60 year old tanks and the eyeing of civilian ships for the Navy are signs that the fight against Ukraine isn’t going well for Russia. They’re also signs that the Kremlin has no intention of giving up the fight anytime soon. Russia is gaining ground slowly in east Ukraine and fighting has slowed. Moscow is losing men and equipment, but is moving swiftly to replace both.

On May 25, the Russian Duma voted to eliminate the upper limit for military recruitment. Previously 40, now any male over the age of 18 can serve in the Russian military. Moscow has also been increasingly reliant on mercenaries

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