Russians find 200 working modern tanks abandoned in a forest

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Russians find 200 working modern tanks abandoned in a forest

About 200 modern Russian tanks have been discovered abandoned on the side of a road in the country's Ural mountains, footage published Saturday by websites showed.

Video clips from the website that were rebroadcast on Russian television showed local people clambering over some of the unguarded T-80 tanks that were parked in long rows in Kamishlovsk, about 100 km from the Ural city of Yekaterinburg.

Russian military prosecutors are probing how the tanks, Russia's main battle tank, came to be left in such a situation, state news agency RIA reported.

Russia is currently streamlining its massive military, with some commanders recently quoted in the Russian media as saying they only require half of the country's 20,000 tanks.

A news website near the city of Yekaterinburg posted a video of the forgotten tanks showing passers-by clambering inside the vehicles and playing with empty ammunition belts. The only items that seemed to be missing were live rounds and the keys to the tanks' ignitions.

"There are tanks all over the forest, abandoned," an unnamed reporter on the video says. "If you need one, come and get it."

Locals in a nearby village said the tanks had been sitting there for almost four months covered in snow. The armoured vehicles were identified as a mixture of T-80 and T-72 battle tanks, the workhorses of the Russian army.

"We were shocked," Pavel L, a local, told Russian media. "It is like you can sit behind the wheel, start up the engine and drive off and nobody would notice!"

A military spokesman claimed the tanks were in fact being guarded by special patrols and were in the process of being dispatched to a military base. But military prosecutors appeared sceptical about his claims and opened an official investigation. Wary of further bad publicity, the army has urgently begun relocating the tanks.

The scandal comes days after one of Russia's top military commanders suggested the country did not need half of its 20,000 tanks and might scrap many older models. Tanks played an important role in the 2008 Russia-Georgia war, with Russia capturing dozens of Georgian tanks in the short conflict.

By netchicken: posted on 2-3-2010

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