Ukraine says Russia's putting inflatable tanks on the battlefield — but the decoys deflated

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Ukrainian military forces accused the Russian army of deploying inflatable tanks in the south of Ukraine in an effort to deceive the opposing side, saying the country's "rubber" decoys had deflated in an anticlimactic display.

"At the time when our partners are coordinating the supply of tanks to Ukraine, the invading army is also increasing the presence of 'tank units' in the Zaporizhzhia area," the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine wrote.

But Russia's multiplying tanks are, according to Ukrainian officials, not what they seem.

"Apparently, the free air of the Cossack region is not suitable for the 'rubber' products of the occupiers, so they deflate without fulfilling their main mission. Just like the inflated bravado of the Russian army," the agency said.

Inflatable tanks are a staple of Russia's deception doctrine known as maskirovka, or masking. The country's approach to psychological warfare , decoy vehicles and soldiers, and other operations of deceit to boost stealth tactics and sow confusion. 

Russia has utilized elements of maskirovka in conflicts going back decades, but their most recent efforts in Ukraine apparently fizzled, Ukraine claims.

It was not clear for what purpose Russia allegedly staged the inflatable tanks near Zaporizhzhia.

Earlier in the war, Ukraine also produced false weaponry, on useless targets. The wooden decoys were meant to look like US rocket launchers when spotted by Russian drones, prompting Russian cruise missile carriers in the Black Sea to fire on the false targets, according to August reports.

Deception as warfare has a long history. The US also utilized inflatable tanks in World War II as part of its into overestimating the Allied forces' military strength. The unit created illusions and sought to spread disinformation by using inflatable mock-ups of military vehicles, tanks, and artillery, as well as audio recordings of sounds that mimicked the movement of large armies.