Theoretically, the 1970s MT-LB belongs to the Russian armed forces, but they left it in northeastern Ukraine, about 30 kilometers (20 miles) from the common border of its warring neighbors.
It was found by tractor driver Vitaliy Denysenko, who grins, has a mischievous twinkle in his eye as he pulls his prize around a field in the village of Mala Rogan, where it was left during a hasty withdrawal in late March.
“We needed two tractors to pull it out, which we were able to do after the military cleared the field,” the 44-year-old told a group of reporters who gathered to cover the spectacle.
Images of Russian tanks and other military vehicles being towed away by plucky Ukrainian tractors have regularly appeared on social media since Moscow’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine and quickly became a defining image of the country’s resistance.
Denysenko followed the example of farmers across the country by donating his quarry to the military.
“We couldn’t use it for ourselves. What could we do with it? Driving to the village disco?’ he said.
Ukrainian peasants have seized so many Russian vehicles in areas occupied and then abandoned by Moscow’s retreating troops that internet wags have begun calling them Europe’s “fifth-largest army.”
– Craze – Now their chutzpah is being celebrated by the country’s national postal service, which had representatives in Mala Rogan on Thursday to launch a new stamp depicting one of the infamous robberies.
Tetyana Fomenkomanager of the postage stamp shop of the Kharkiv Regional Postal Service, said it was the fourth military-themed stamp to be issued during the war, with an expected sale of five million.
It’s unclear which Ukrainian first towed a Russian tank, but the craze really hit when Victor Kychuk and his friends took command of a Soviet T-80 on March 1 in Slatyne, a northeastern city of 6,000 residents, just eight miles from Russia.
“We found a lot of vehicles and equipment in our village once it was liberated… This one was really stuck,” the 44-year-old told AFP, recalling shellfire raining down as they carried out the daring operation.
“There was a lot of discarded equipment, but the local team made the most of it,” he added.
“They cut all the wiring, pierced all the optics and everything that was left. Four units have been taken out. And four devices were taken by our boys from the village.’
– Symbol of Resistance – Kychuk sent a clip of him and his friends driving the tank away to the regional military chief Volodymyr Usovawho uploaded it to YouTube, where it quickly went viral and gained 350,000 views.
Ukrposhta’s postal service has become something of a symbol of Ukrainian resistance after the issuance of a stamp in April depicting a soldier giving the middle finger to Russia’s Black Sea flagship Moskva.
The warship had been sunk days earlier by an explosion and fire that Ukraine claimed was caused by a missile strike, while Russia said the damage was due to an explosion of ammunition on board.
In Kiev, a huge line of people lined up outside the central post office on Thursday to pick up the last stamp.
Those in line were told to wait three hours to get their hands on the prized memento.
“This is how we support our people’s struggle against the Russian aggressor,” lifelong stamp collector Vitaliy, 60, told AFP.
“But now that there is war, we patriots support our country. Part of the money from the sale of these stamps goes to the armed forces of Ukraine.”