This weekend, the Russian army held live-fire tank exercises with 1,500 soldiers in these areas and others nearby. The Russian Federal Security Service, the FSB, intercepted a vessel of the Ukrainian Navy in the Sea of Azov which she said was carrying out a “provocation”. And Putin, the Kremlin and the country’s state media spouted more belligerent rhetoric.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters this week that Putin had not made a decision on whether he would launch another full-scale invasion of Ukraine. But US intelligence and military analysts warn he has plenty of Russian forces in place should he decide to do so.
“There is no indication that Russia is moving its forces away from Ukraine, but there is evidence that Russia continues to send more ground forces near the border,” said Rob Lee, Russian military expert and doctoral student at King’s. College London War. Department of Studies, told BuzzFeed News. “I would expect that to mean that Russia will maintain a hardened military position near Ukraine for the foreseeable future…even if they don’t escalate in Ukraine.”
Konrad Muzyka, a defense analyst specializing in Russia and Belarus, analyzed Maxar Technologies footage for BuzzFeed News. He said Russia had created a new regiment within its 3rd Motor Rifle Division and that this group likely accounted for much of the increase in troops and equipment at Soloti seen in satellite images between the September 7 and December 5. It was two days before. President Joe Biden’s call with Putin.
“The regiment is based on BMP-3M [Russian infantry fighting vehicles] who were withdrawn from the 22nd Central Reserve and Maintenance Base in Buy in mid-November,” he said, referring to the town northwest of Moscow where they came from. “The same facility delivered BMP-3Ms to a new motor rifle regiment of the 18th Kaliningrad Motor Rifle Division. In total, between mid-November and early December, some 200 new vehicles appeared at Soloti, though probably not all of them came from Buy.
Maxar senior manager Stephen Wood told BuzzFeed News that some of the recent increase in vehicle numbers seen in the Dec. 5 image may represent military units that returned after participating in the major military exercise. ground forces that Russia organized in the fall.
In Opuk, Muzyka said, it is more difficult to know what is shown in satellite images taken on November 27. “In recent months there has been a lot of movement to and from Crimea. This may be done to mask the magnitude of the Russian forces there.