Russia’s Top Cannoneer Killed in Ukraine

Corporal Bato Basanov, a tank gunner in a T-72 was reportedly killed in Ukraine recently. He was 25.

Bato Basanov was Russia’s top gunner on the Russian tank crew that won the annual Tank Biathlon event in Alabino tank proving grounds outside Moscow in 2021.  The Tank Biathlon is part of the International Military Games hosted by Russia each year. As many as 41 countries send military teams to various events.

Since 2014, a Russian tank team has won the gold champion award every year.  Service members in those 41 countries the Russians beat every year, have to be looking at the dismal performance of the Russian army in Ukraine and wondering, “How good are we, if the Gold Champion Russia is taking a shelacking like this?”

Basanov was from Buryatia, a sparsely populated republic in Eastern Russia on the border of Mongolia. Buryatia is a federal subject of Russia. Basanov was a gunner in the first company of a tank battalion in the 37th Separate Guards Motorised Rifle Brigade. This unit is stationed in the Eastern Military District which is in Siberia.  This confirms to us that the Russians are having to strip fresh units from places as far away as the border with Mongolia to replace their losses in men and equipment in the Ukraine war

It took seven weeks for his remains to be returned to his family. If his death was at all similar to the deaths of the average Russian tank gunner in this war, there wasn’t much to send home.

In case you don’t know by now, Russian tank designers since the 1950s have placed ready ammunition for the main gun inside the tank turret.  For those tanks with autoloading cannons,(which eliminated the Loader position in the crew) the remaining three crewmen are sitting on top or in front of a carrousel-type magazine with 22 rounds of tank ammunition in it.  When hit, by an anti-tank guided missile or another tank round, they tend to “cook-off” the 22 rounds in storage.  The result is an incinerated crew blasted to bits and the tank’s turret being blown off the chassis and landing as far as 100 feet away.