The tensions between Ukraine and Russia have reached a peak this month with significant forces amassing on both sides. The Russian Ministry of Defense has claimed that the vast mobilization of the troops near Ukraine and in the Baltic Region is part of exercises and is also due to “threat emerging from NATO activity“. This latter reasoning is concerning as it could lead to a larger conflict that would exceed the borders of Ukraine. This eventuality would see a potential conflict much sooner than previously expected by analysts. Moscow’s aggressive posturing in the region is in fact unprecedented.
Last weak, open-source intelligence specialist Thomas Bullock identified a variety of heavy equipment gathered by the Russians on the Ukrainian border. He identified troops from the 74th and 35th Motorised Brigades, 120th Artillery Brigade and the 6th Tank Regiment. Rob Lee has also kept a watch on the Russian build up, monitoring Russian press coverage and military action.
These units originated from the Central Military District. Bullock noted that they are “equipped with tanks, infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs), and long-range artillery including 2S19 MSTA-S 152 mm self-propelled guns, TOS-1A thermobaric multiple rocket launchers (MRLs), and BM-27 Uragan 220 mm MRLs entering Voronezh by train.”
Bullock also identified the deployment of Iskander short-range ballistic missile systems, possibly belonging to the 119 Missile Brigade.
The gathering of significant artillery assets can be seen as part of serious Russian preparations to strike. Russian doctrine includes the use of heavy artillery in order to break enemy resistance and push through shredded and pinned defenses with highly mobile mechanized troops and armor that bypasses any remnants remaining.
In addition to the ground forces amassing at the Ukraine borders, the presence of the Caspian Fleet in the Black Sea suggests the potential threat from maritime assault forces, such as the famous Russian Naval Infantry. The significant numbers of assault ships indicate that the Russians could potentially strike the strategic port of Odesa or support the potential attack on Mariupol from the sea.
A Russian offensive still seems unlikely, additionally Russia have publicly stated that the forces will begin to be withdrawn in the coming weeks and months following the completion of various exercises. This remains to be seen and we will observe the further development of the situation in Ukraine and inform on any changes.