As demoralized Russian troops sabotage their own weapons systems and flog parts for scrap, some enterprising Ukrainians, whose normal livelihoods have been hit hard since Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked invasion, manage to join the two. ends by selling captured and abandoned Russian equipment on eBay.
Trophies include battle-scarred watches and mess kits, hats and cap badges, missile components and tank hatches, lucky charms, boots found near a destroyed Russian column, even sets of long underwear left behind by fleeing (or dead) Russian soldiers. .
“It’s not just a military artifact – a human life is behind it [sic] each of those things,” an ad for a military belt reads to potential customers.
Another listing reads: “A Russian soldier’s uniform from the Ukraine War 2022. The lot is unique in that it was not taken in the early days of the war, but roughly fashion these days. Just 3 days ago… this form [sic] was in the hottest place – in the Donbass.
At $425, the set doesn’t come cheap. But, as the listing ominously notes: “Good condition, not worn long :)))”
The vendor, who asked to be identified only by his first name, Taras, told The Daily Beast that he owned a small grocery store in Kyiv but that business collapsed dramatically during the war.
“Now everything is difficult,” Taras said. “eBay helps and has become the main type of work… War objects are of great interest to collectors.”
Since Russian troops entered Ukraine in March, the country’s economy has virtually imploded. Some 50% of Ukrainian businesses have closed in the past four months and around half of all Ukrainians have lost their jobs. According to economist Nataliya Katser-Buchkovska, only 2% of the newly unemployed have been able to find ways to stay afloat. If the war continues unabated, up to 90% of Ukraine’s population could sink into poverty, the UN’s International Labor Organization warned in May.
Taras just started selling War Relics this month and has moved around 20 items so far. Now that his shop is struggling, Taras said he’s recently started to think his profession is “Dude who takes [and sells] crazy things.”
He gets most of his auction items independently, but also said he takes orders from customers he connects with online.
“Today a client of mine asked me to get and send him a hatch from a damaged tank,” Taras said on Tuesday, adding that he had yet to find a suitable one. “We have guys on the front line, we buy things from them and therefore we support them.”
After the end of active hostilities in and around Kyiv, Taras said he started taking items left behind by the Russians. In addition to removing gear and personal effects from enemy gear, Taras has also bought “from the people” some of the things he offers for sale online.
Its customers are mainly in America, Canada and Australia, Taras said. “But above all, America.”
Items vary depending on what he discovers, explained Taras, who often posts a snippet of the story and a photo of where he found the item with his listings.
“[O]officer’s pencil case of a self-propelled artillery mount,” it read. “100% original product. Fired from self-propelled guns (last photo) after a quick counter-offensive in the Chernihiv region. The Russians retreated, leaving the equipment without fuel. There is only one photo of the person carrying the object, the documents were seized by the army earlier.
“kyiv region of the Brovarsky district!” said Taras in another. “A Russian army officer’s sleeping bag was removed from the armored personnel carrier.”
A handful of others had the same idea, collecting relics from the battlefield to sell to a fascinated foreign market largely isolated from the daily horrors of war.
Everything is permitted for sale under eBay’s Military Items Policy, which excludes weapons, explosives, and certain types of body armor. However, pro-Putin items are now banned, as are those bearing the pro-Putin ‘Z’ symbol, an eBay official told The Daily Beast.
For $123 plus $16 shipping, an eBay seller called “ukrseller_one” will send you a “Modern Russian Soldier’s Military Journey.” [sic] case. Inside you can see what Russian soldiers use in the field. There is a separate soldier’s life inside… As you can see, some objects have been used. The torch is worked [sic]it’s fantastic!”
Inside are personal items such as a toothbrush, sewing kit, gauze, shampoo, and a few pairs of briefs. The seller, who did not respond to inquiries from The Daily Beast, promises to provide the prospective buyer with “full information, how, where and when he was captured”.
“PS We have the photo of this soldier,” the listing reads. “You will be satisfied to watch it [sic].”
A wristwatch once worn by a Russian soldier can be yours for $83, plus free shipping, via ukrseller_one, whose profile places him in Vinnytsia, Ukraine.
“This watch was captured at the beginning [sic] of June near the town of Izum, Kharkiv region, Ukraine,” the listing reads. “Russian officer’s watch. Broken watch with broken belt, captured after a hard battle. Russian officer [sic] last name, first name, unit, place is known. Full details after purchase.
The same eBay seller was, until recently, offering a set of lightly worn long johns once worn by a member of the Russian forces.
“This underwear was found near the town of Pryluki, Ukraine,” the listing reads. “There was [a] night battle and the Russian soldiers did not have time to confront [sic] own underwear. As you see, there are pants and two t-shirts (the second t-shirt is free)”
There were no takers, at an opening bid of $49 or a buy-it-now price of $66, plus $13 shipping.
Further, if you’re looking for twisted engine parts from a Russian short-range cruise missile, “prettiestgirlstore”, based in Romanow, Ukraine, is happy to supply them for a starting bid of $125. Shipping is free and US buyers receive a USPS tracking number.
“Turbojet engine parts of a Russian Kалибр (reporting name NAТО SS-N-27 ‘Sіzzlеr’),” the listing reads. “100% inert and safe. True battle relic – June 9, 2022 / City of Novohrad-Volynskyi.
In another listing, prettiestgirlstore, which also did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment, features a “genuine military trophy!”
“Found in an abandoned tank,” read the description. “Buryat tanker items: cap badge, two branch insignia badges, belt, two Buryat commemorative coins and two Buddhist protection talismans. Battle of Izium (March 2022) There are many Buryatian soldiers in the Russian army.
The lot, according to the listing, “Smells of diesel fuel and a tank.”
Half of prettiestgirl’s profits are donated to charity, the account claims, stating at the bottom of all listings: “Glory to Ukraine!” The victory will be ours! Good will triumph over evil!
None of this sits particularly well with a Russian national now living in the United States, who comes from a family with generations of military service. He told the Daily Beast he found the idea of buying Russian personal effects “disgusting”, comparing it to equipment from dead American soldiers sold to curious collectors by the Taliban. (He asked that he not be named for this story.)
Still, business is buoyant and customers continue to submit requests, according to Taras.
“A guy was very offended that he couldn’t get a tank helmet and writes to me every day,” he said. “Now I’m looking for a tank helmet for him.”