These Soviet T-34-85 tanks have been at Zheltukhin Island, Russia, since the 1980s. They were delivered to be used as shooting targets for Pacific Fleet training. Before this peculiar “retirement,” many of the tanks had taken part in military action.
The tanks have become something of a local attraction, and many people come to the island just to see them. Unfortunately, they are also a bountiful find for metal hunters, who have been salvaging them since the 2000s.
In 2016, the Primorskiy Regional Department of DOSAAF (Volunteer Society for Cooperation with the Army, Aviation, and Navy) decided to repair two tanks from the island for the purposes of the military-patriotic education of youth, which is the central aim of the organization.
Essentially, they wanted to eventually be able to display the tanks during Victory Day celebrations. They were granted permission to remove the tanks from the island by Admiral Sergei Avakyants, the commander of the Pacific Fleet.
The tanks were removed in August 2017. Somehow, by a strange mistake, a third tank was taken off the island as well. This last tank was deemed unrepairable and was one of the two tanks that took part in WWII. It is speculated that the other tank took part in military operations against the Japanese in August 1945.
The two tanks were going to be restored to the point of being partially functional – that is, to the point of being capable of traveling by themselves. The total cost of this was estimated at 8 million rubles, equivalent to about 120,000 U.S. dollars (exchange rate – August 2018). The third tank was either going to be used for spare parts or made into a monument.
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Once transported from the island, the tanks were cleaned of rust and covered in special anti-corrosion paint. But in two weeks, they were confiscated.
This happened because the Department of Property Relations of the Ministry of Defense was not informed about the moving of the tanks. Their fate remained uncertain until August 2018, when it was announced that they will be returned to DOSAAF volunteers within a month and that restoration will be resumed. Meanwhile, other tanks, or what is left of them, are still rotting away in the open.
A big thank you to KFSS for the photos! See more of their work here: KFSS.ru