• The Humvee in the footage is similar to the variant used by the Ukrainian Armed Forces
  • Ukraine fears possible infiltration by Russian forces into its military and intelligence
  • It is unclear whether Russia was using the vehicle to confuse Ukraine troops

Even days before Russian troops stormed into Ukraine, Kremlin has been keeping the world on tenterhooks with brisk troop movements. From landing crafts and stealth submarines to missile columns, videos of its impressive military hardware had hinted at Russia's extensive preparation for the invasion.

But, what has left military watchers wide-eyed is the presence of a U.S.-made High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (Humvee) in the stream of Russian military vehicles gathering around Ukraine’s borders.

The sighting of the Humvee in Russian territory, similar to the variant used by the Ukrainian Armed Forces, comes amid Ukraine's fear of possible infiltration by Russian forces into its military. Kyiv had earlier expressed concern that in the wake of a war, Russia will be using the network of moles it had planted in Ukraine’s military, intelligence and security forces for decades.

The presence of the Humvee with Russian troops was first highlighted by military analyst Rob Lee who posted a picture of the vehicle from the convoy. Though it is unclear when the said video was shot, the spot has been geolocated to Kamensk-Shakhtinsky, a town in Russia’s Rostov Oblast, near Ukraine border.

According to The Drive, the Humvee shown in the footage has a raised roof modification, a feature of Ukrainian-owned М1097А2s. The specification was carried out locally by Lviv Machinery and Repair Plant for the Ukrainian peacekeeping contingent in Kosovo.

A few of the М1097А2s later fell into the hands of pro-Russian militants from the Luhansk occupation corps during 2014 and 2015 during combat, according to Ukrainian accounts, based on open-source intelligence (OSINT). Ukraine never spoke about the Humvees that were "not just lost, but transferred to the terrorists," the account said.

While such capturing and repurposing are common, the intriguing fact is that the vehicle seen in the video was distinctly Ukrainian configuration. An account that appears on a Facebook page called "Military Informant" too identified the vehicle as the one captured in Eastern Ukraine in 2014.

Though other Ukrainian Humvees were said to have been damaged during earlier fighting, the report said the mystery vehicle may be one of the few that were repaired and returned to action.

The report also quoted Lee, who said the troops seen around the vehicles look like they could be "[pro-Russian] rebels or irregular forces."

That said, there is still no hard evidence that the Humvee in the video is related to any irregular force or Russia. It is also unclear whether Russia or Russian-backed forces intend to confuse Ukrainians using the captured vehicle.

Tanks move into the city, after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized military operation in eastern Ukraine, in Mariupol
Russia still has the upper-hand in its war with Ukraine, experts said, but it has also sustained damage. In photo: tanks move into the city, after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized a military operation in eastern Ukraine, in Mariupol, February 24, 2022. Reuters / CARLOS BARRIA