100 Modernized T-72 Tanks Reportedly Vanish, as “Thieves” Just Drive Off With Them

A modernized version of the T-72A 12 photos
Photo: Wikipedia / Vitaly V. Kuzmin
A modernized version of the T-72A"Stolen" T-72 modernized tanks traveling through Poland"Stolen" T-72 modernized tanks traveling through PolandAll-army stage of the Tank Biathlon 2021All-army stage of the Tank Biathlon 2021All-army stage of the Tank Biathlon 2021All-army stage of the Tank Biathlon 2021All-army stage of the Tank Biathlon 2021All-army stage of the Tank Biathlon 2021All-army stage of the Tank Biathlon 2021All-army stage of the Tank Biathlon 2021
Some people can’t find it in themselves to steal a pin. This isn’t that: “thieves” are believed to have made off with 100 (one hundred, to be sure) T-72 tanks, all modernized and upgraded to T-72M1R standards just recently.
This happened in Poland, Lublin, where the tanks were held in warehouses, according to local news portal Visegard24. Polish authorities have reportedly confirmed the “theft” and said that an investigation would be carried out after the summer holidays.

This sounds like a bad joke or hilarious trolling at its best, but the media outlet has photos of the tanks on the move. Apparently, 100 T-72 tanks were simply loaded up and hauled “eastward,” in what is meant to look like the world’s biggest military blunder of recent years. If not ever.

If the tanks did go missing – and that’s a big “if” as of the time of press, since there’s no official confirmation for it –, Visegard24 implies it was not by theft. “The sudden appearance in the Donbas of a large number of T-72 of the Ukrainian army cannot be associated with the disappearance of 100 Polish tanks from Lublin. You can buy T-72 in any army store,” it says.

The alleged “theft” of the tanks comes against the backdrop of the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, and President Zelensky’s recent plea to NATO and the U.S. to supply his army with weapons and vehicles. The T-72 tank, a staple in the former Soviet Union and famous for its lightweight, easy maneuverability and maintenance, was at the top of that list.

Earlier this month, NATO countries discussed the possibility of sending T-72 tanks into Ukraine, to help fight off the Russian invasion. Headlines at the time pointed out the irony of having Russian war machines turned against Russia, with many voices noting that Poland was the closest and ideal candidate for a fresh supply – particularly for the fact that it had over 400 T-72M1s, all of them undergoing modernization as of 2020. That said, if the tanks did go missing, it would mean thieves were somehow able to drive off with a quarter of the Polish military’s supply of T-72s.

The T-72 family went into production in 1969, both in Russia and the Soviet Union. Poland produced licensed versions of it, like many other countries. With each new model, improvements were brought to the original T-72, particularly to the armor, the V-84 engine, and the design, with modern versions being able to fire guided anti-tank missiles.

It is lightweight and compact, has nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) protection system, can travel in formation even on narrower roads, and can cross rivers as deep as 5 meters (16.4 feet) submerged. The T-72 is also easy to maneuver and maintain, and if the above report is true, very easily made to disappear.

*Update, April 19, 2022:

Indeed, one of the photos of the supposedly stolen T-72s being whisked away to some unknown destination on a Polish highway is not of a T-72 at all. It shows a BMP (Boyevaya Mashina Pyekhoty), a Soviet amphibious tracked infantry fighting vehicle.

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Editor's note: Photos in the gallery include images of the allegedly "stolen" T-72s on the move in Poland, and snaps from the 2021 Tank Biathlon.

About the author: Elena Gorgan
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Elena has been writing for a living since 2006 and, as a journalist, she has put her double major in English and Spanish to good use. She covers automotive and mobility topics like cars and bicycles, and she always knows the shows worth watching on Netflix and friends.
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