More evidence has emerged from a steady buildup of Russian military equipment and deployments in Ukraine, with new satellite imagery revealing a further expansion of the military presence in various locations in Belarus, Crimea and western Russia.
Russian forces entered Belarus in the last two weeks. The Russian and Belarusian defense ministries say the displaced troops are ahead of a major training exercise this month.
The images were collected and analyzed by Maxar. In a follow-up note, Maxar said the deployments “reflect an increased level of activity and readiness.”
Maxar and other satellite imagery providers said they had noticed the expansion of Russian military training camps and existing garrisons some 240 kilometers from the Ukrainian border in recent months.
Some are just a few kilometers from the border. Maxar said the latest images show a new phase of Russian activity.
He said that previously, “in most cases, few troops or new housing for additional personnel have been observed near deployments, suggesting that some of the units may have been pre-positioned or forward-deployed.”
That started to change. “During the last two weeks, several significant new military deployments have been observed in Belarus,” Maxar said.
“In addition, troop tents/shelters were seen at virtually all deployment sites in Belarus, Crimea and western Russia, which suggests that the units are now accompanied by troops and have increased their overall level of readiness.”
Maxar compared images from September and late January from the same military camp in Novoozerne, Crimea. The images show a significant increase in activity, with an area of tents being erected.
This implies that the camp is ready to house troops, although there is no evidence of troops arriving so far.
Maxar also notes that “local military training activity (including live fire artillery and maneuver training) has been observed in progress in various training areas.”
The images show impact craters in two training areas in Russia: Pogonovo and Persianovsky. Being that Persianovsky is about 50 kilometers from the Ukrainian border, and Pogonovo is about 220 kilometers from the border.
Konrad Muzyka, a defense analyst with a focus on Russia and Belarus at Rochan Consulting, an aerospace and defense consultancy, said he believed there were now between 74 and 76 Russian battalion tactical groups (BTGs) spread across Ukraine.
Battalion tactical groups typically consist of around 1,000 soldiers, along with support units.
Muzyka says that since the first week of January, Russia has been transferring its forces from the Eastern Military District – thousands of kilometers away in Siberia – to Western Russia and Belarus.
“The size of this deployment is significant, perhaps even 15-20 BTGs,” Muzyka wrote in a note.
He also said Russian ground forces have sent units including Iskander short-range ballistic missiles to Belarus and parts of Russia near Ukraine. He calculates that there are at least 48 launchers near Ukraine.
While Russian capabilities and moves can often be observed, the Kremlin’s intentions are much harder to read. US President Joe Biden said last week that an invasion of Ukraine in February is “a distinct possibility”.
UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said that “it is highly likely that [o presidente Putin] invade Ukraine”.
“There is a real threat of invasion, but we don’t know what will happen,” she told the BBC on 30 January.
The Kremlin has consistently denied that it has plans to invade Ukraine.
Source: CNN Brasil