Video: Ukraine Separatists Try To Crank Up WWII Tank

Separatists in eastern Ukraine are trying to crank up a 1943-vintage Soviet tank that was part of a World War II memorial in their fight for an independent republic linked to Russia, according to Russian news outlets.

For decades, the IS-3 tank has been sitting on a stone pedestal as a monument in the town of Kostiantynivka, the Russian ITAR-Tass news agency reported last week. (The “IS” stands for the late Soviet dictator Joseph, or Iosif, Stalin.)

The press agency of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic said that “Our craftsmen have managed to start the engine of the IS-3 tank displayed on a platform in a park,” ITAR-Tass said. “The tank is being prepared and will engage in combat soon.”

Videos of the startup circulating on YouTube suggested that the 12-cylinder, 520-horsepower engine might need some work before it can rumble off the park’s pedestal. The engine screeched and strained, belching out clouds of black smoke before it was shut down.

The IS-3 features a 122mm cannon and in its heyday could do about 22 mph an hour on paved roads, ITAR-Tass said.


About the Author

Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.
  • hibeam

    One old tank on a platform should be enough to counter the MRE’s the Commander in Golf has been supplying to the Ukraine. “FORE!”

    • frank

      Too bad Ronnie Raygun wasn’t still around, he could sell them some arms and then give the cash to the Ukraine

      • blight_

        DPRK-Ukraine doesn’t have the same ring to it as Iran-Contra.

        • James Haney

          They were not holding hostages for a year either. The weapons were used against Iraq in the Iran Iraq war were purchased by Iran prior to the revolution.

    • Hunter76

      Take your constant anti-Obama screed someplace people want to hear it.

      • hibeam

        I’m pro Obama. I think incompetence corruption and lying are all good things. Good for America. I especially like the chaos at our Southern border. It’s all good.

        • Steve Jenkinson

          Just stow it already

      • dennis

        ever hear of free speech ? Hunter if you want people to respect your comments you need to do the same.

        • kaleighspapa

          Commander in Golf! LOL!!

  • rtsy

    Symbolic and pathetic all at the same time.

    • Dfens

      Or perhaps symbolically pathetic.

  • CaptB

    So where are they going to find the tank shells that fit? I wouldn’t want to be the one to fire the first round.

    • CaptC…

  • Lance

    Its a very very late war tank never saw action in Europe and only saw combat in the Soviet invasion of Manchuria and Korea in August 1945.

    • Brice

      It wasn’t used in the August ’45 offensive, those were just rumors that have now been proven to be incorrect. They were used in ’56 in Hungary and in ’68 in Czechoslovakia(maybe) though.

      • Lance

        Well sorry read from repected sources small umber where used in 1945 in Asia.

  • Lance

    And dont worr Russia will be giving the rebels T-55, T-62s, and T-72s soon.

    • Aidan Pencek

      All of which will be torn open like an aluminum can when met with an M1A2 Abrams! Oh baby!

      • Aidan Pencek

        Or a Leopard!

      • Daniel James

        You mean a challenger pattern 1? Thats what your Abrahams are. We brits have vastly upgraded pattern 2 Challengers. You have numerical superiority, but we have the better kit :D

  • Godzilla

    Egypt used a bunch of these in the Six Day War. They were old and obsolete back then.

    That engine sounds like it is more dead than alive. Theoretically you could probably use a T-54 engine in it since they are all based on the T-34 engine. But it is useless. It had a slow reload and crap fire control. It is basically just a symbolic gesture.

    I am more concerned that these guys can get their hands on the Malyshev Tank Factory which produces T-84 tanks.

    • Jacob

      What about that tank graveyard that is abandonded with tons of working (probably) T-50 to T-80’s?

  • BlackOwl18E

    That’s got to be a new level of desperation…

  • blight_

    Be worried when the Army fractures down the middle, with units defecting to whichever government is deemed legitimate. The Russian Army will move in to stabilize the East, NATO will stabilize the west…sound familiar?

    • Daniel James

  • TonyC.

    Amazing, the thing actually started. I’ll be there are bearings ready to seize up at any moment. The steel armor on that tank will not hold up for long against the new AP rounds from a T-72.

  • elmondohummus

    Sounds like a car I used to have in college. ;)

    On a serious note: Let’s remember that these are the separatists, so their allies would be the Russians, not the Western Ukrainians. I don’t see these separatists having to face Russian armor, so even an old beater tank like this should be able to do damage against the local police force they’d be fighting. It’d be a whole other thing to face the Ukrainian military’s armor, but I don’t think that’s what these guys would be using this tank against. So this makes a bit more sense to deploy than what I first thought when I watched that video.

    That’s all provided they get that clunker running, of course. That’s not guaranteed.

    • blight_

      I guess if the tracks still worked they could push it with a bulldozer and use it as a shield.

      • Ales Ogrinc

        would be easier to use bulldozer right away wouldnt it? What bother pushing something around you cant really use?

        • blight_

          You have a point there. A properly modified bulldozer is always a problem.

          Of course, I also assume that the AFV is better armored than a commercial bulldozer, but Heemeyer proved that you could armor the right bulldozer given enough time.

    • Rhys F

      Simple rolled and welded steel with unaided glass sights, an RPG-7 would punch right through and no thermal vis to pick up the camoed shooters before the warhed arrives!

      Nice deathtrap, but just a symbol.

  • bart hooliman

    I guess you would have armour but to what end with no ammo?

    • Jason Ghent

      They might use it as a heavy APC or an armored reconnaissance vehicle.

      • alex

        it would be useless without it’s canon. it would be a good sentinel with spinning turret in some road intersection. but too slow and too heavy and too guzzling to be a reco vehicle

  • Brett Weeks

    Looks like they’re doing a burn-out…

  • Theo_CC_Atheist

    Without a full rebuild of every component that needs lubrication, including every bearing, it might be able to drive and shoot, but not for very long or far. The fact that it started and ran does not mean it’s combat ready!

  • Pete

    The fact that this tank started after sitting for decades is amazing on it’s own, even if it sounded like crap. Futher more, even if they do get the tank operational again, what will they fire? Its very dangerous to use other rounds that are not supposed to go with that Cannon. Also, you would have to be really dumb to be the one too fire the tanks main gun. Another thing, it takes a lot of resources to operate a tank, that’s why most Countries don’t have a lot of them. And finally, in the 10% chance that this tank does see combat, ONE RPG round would destroy that tank, and over there I imagine RPGS are easy to find. So I really see no need of using it against the army. But, against the police for a day or two before word gets out, now that would be interesting to watch on the new, cops running away scared lol

  • Rob C.

    If anything, this thing is for show. It does have the armor, but Ukrainans should have at least light anti-tank missile or bazooka around. Driving it around should draw attention or encourage natives who aren’t keen on military anything should be impressive if they can straighten out the engine.

    Also, they’ll have do something about the barrel of the weapon itself. Tanks usually have change the barrels after so many times firing, if they find a 120mm cannon shell that can fired from it.

    • Doug Smith

      The gun is a 122mm, but is the ammo compatible with artillery rounds of the same caliber?

      • Rob C.

        Sorry, I meant 122 mm. It maybe the same size shell, but depends on the powder in it. Barrel may explode if too much gunpowder. I don’t know a lot about Russian vehicles, but if they managed World War II ammunition that happens to be same 122 round used in that tank. Maybe.

        • Jacob

          You know that this thing cannot even fight out an M26 or even an upgraded Korean-war vintage Sherman! Did they just forget the huge tank graveyard That they have over in Ukraine? Also,who the hell wants to sit in this death trap of a tank,I agree it is just for show,like a dong with bark but no bite type of thing

  • William Baranowski

    “Tanks”. “You’re welcome.”

  • DavidB

    The IS-3 fired multi-part ammunition. The projectile was loaded first, then powder bags. This is what caused the very low rate of fire.

  • kevin jackson

    IS-3 is a fantastically built and engineered tank, but it wont stand a chance against a t-90. it would be a shame for such a piece of history to be destroyed.

  • Chris Cordova


  • James P Jr Bettes

    That engine sounds like it’s only hitting on about half the cylinders.

  • Grehwk

    Yugo still lives……on a stone block.

  • Isoroku Yamamoto

    Chuck Hagel is ordering 20,000 of these to replace the US Abrams tanks.

  • Jacob

    Are they so desperate as to start up a 50-70 year old tank with no maintenance then expect it to run perfectly and hope that it’s armour can stand up to RPG and T-90 AP/HE rounds?

    What are they thinking?!?

  • glenn57377

    Must have been a boring afternoon. Don’t count on having the parts necessary to sustain the tank in operable condition. Unless, of course, it’s powered by Briggs & Stratton. Cranks every time.

  • gearhead1

    And don’t forget that Russian tanks use a manual shift transmission - I think it’s a five speed. There are a series of bellcranks and levers that run from the driver back to the transmission. Even on new tanks these controls were problematic and prone to jamming from dirt in the hull. Supposedly the operators were given lead hammers to beat the shift lever into the next gear.

  • jeff

    Hold my beer,I am going to crank it up