Russians throng to display of Western 'trophy' tanks captured in Ukraine

By Andrew Osborn

(Reuters) - Western tanks and military hardware captured by Russian forces in Ukraine went on display in Moscow on Wednesday at an exhibition the Russian military said showed Western help would not stop it winning the war.

Long queues of people formed on what was a sunny May Day public holiday at the entrance to the exhibition, entitled "Trophies of the Russian Army," which is being held outside a museum celebrating the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in 1945.

"History is repeating itself," the Russian Defence Ministry said in a statement, adding that the Soviet Union had in 1943 also put on a display of captured tanks and hardware, in this case from the German army.

"Strength is in the truth. It's always been that way. In 1943 and today. These war trophies reflect our strength. The more of them there are, the stronger we are," the ministry stated, predicting a Russian victory in what it officially calls its "special military operation" in Ukraine.

"No Western military equipment will change the situation on the battlefield," the statement added.

According to Western and Ukrainian critics, much of Russia’s military hardware is old or outdated, and Russian battlefield gains have resulted from sheer force of numbers and high casualties. Both sides keep the number of dead and injured a secret but are known to have suffered heavy losses.

The Moscow display, which includes U.S., German and French tanks supplied to Ukraine, came days after the U.S. approved a $61 billion aid package for Kyiv and after Russia made some swift but incremental territorial gains in eastern Ukraine at a time when Kyiv's forces say they lack ammo and manpower.

Ukraine, whose President Volodymyr Zelenskiy says it will eventually push Russian forces from its soil, held a similar exhibition along Kyiv's central boulevard last summer featuring burnt-out husks of Russian tanks and fighting vehicles.

Russia, says the International Institute for Strategic Studies, has itself lost over 3,000 tanks in Ukraine amounting to its entire pre-war active inventory, but has enough lower-quality armoured vehicles in storage for years of replacement and says it is now ramping up production of new tanks.

In addition to tanks, British and Australian armoured vehicles seized in Ukraine are on display in Moscow along with military hardware made in Turkey, Sweden, Austria, Finland, South Africa and the Czech Republic.

State TV's Channel One said the star of the show was a captured American M1 Abrams battle tank, which it said had been taken out by Russian forces in eastern Ukraine using a guided rocket and kamikaze drones.

Clambering over the Abrams holding his microphone, a state TV correspondent told Russians that the tank had been billed in the United States as an indestructible "wonder weapon".

"But that was all nonsense - look at this - all of its reputation has been destroyed," he said.

(Reporting by Andrew Osborn; editing by Mark Heinrich)