Russian officials claimed to have blown up an advanced Ukrainian tank – that turned out to be a tractor.
The Russian Embassy in Washington announced on Monday (June 5) its military had "annihilated" eight German-made Leopard tanks, some of the most advanced weapons Ukraine has been provided since the start of the invasion in February 2022.
Grainy black-and-white footage recorded from the thermal imaging system of a KA-52 Alligator attack helicopter shows the silhouettes of several vehicles, one of which is then hit by a missile.
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A voice can then be heard saying in Russian: "Direct hit!" as the vehicle explodes.
The clip was shared extensively on Russian news sites and state channels with the Nation's Ministry of Defence announcing on the social network Telegram that it showed the "destruction of foreign armoured vehicles, including Leopard tanks", AP reports.
But as the clip spread online, weapons experts and military fans were quick to observe the vehicles attacked didn't appear to be tanks, but may have been tractors.
"The silhouette of that particular vehicle or object did not look commensurate with what I’d be expecting for a Leopard tank," said George Barros, leader of the Geospatial Intelligence Team for Russia and Ukraine at the Institute for the Study of War.
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"It was probably a piece of heavy farm equipment."
Valentin Châtelet, a research associate at The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, agreed, added: "They are pointing their thermal camera at three vehicles that appear to be harvesters.
"And the first target they’re hitting is most likely a sprayer."
The military experts noticed the vehicle hit by the Russian missile has four large wheels and sits high off the ground, while Leopard 2 tanks have treads instead of wheels.
Earlier this year Germany announced it would provide 18 Leopard 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine, one of the most heavily-armoured but easily manoeuvred battle tanks in the world, in a push to provide the besieged nation with 100 tanks supplied by NATO countries.
It boasts a 120mm gun with a range of more than 2.5miles (4km), according to manufacturer Krauss-Maffei Wegmann.
Ukrainian officials have not commented on whether the Leopard 2 tanks have been used in battle.
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