Journos pinpoint location of Russian-hybrid troops’ tank drills in occupied Donbas

Journos pinpoint location of Russian hybrid troops’ tank drills in occupied Donbas

Tank base and training ground of Russian-hybrid forces near Ternove, Donetsk Oblast (location on the map). Screenshot: Google Maps 

Russian Aggression, War in the Donbas

With the ongoing buildup of Russian troops near Ukraine’s borders, the Russian-controlled LDNR group (the so-called Luhansk and Donetsk “people’s republics”) announced military exercises, confirmed by Ukrainian intelligence and the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM).

In their report referring to 23 November, the SMM assessed several recorded explosions as a live-fire training exercise, suggesting that those occurred 12-15 kilometers northwest of the village of Marynivka. However, journalists of RFE/RL’s project Donbas.Realii have managed to pinpoint the location of the ongoing tank drills to a large training area near Ternove, some 5-7 kilometers further west-northwest. This is how they found it out.

The DNR group ("Donetsk People's Republic") first announced the drills on 23 November, two days later the DNR websites reported on the ongoing training emphasizing the involvement of tank units in the exercise. All the reports didn't disclose the location of the drills, neither did they publish any videos. The only visuals shown were photos with blurry terrains in the background.

On 23 November, the Main Directorate of Intelligence (HUR) of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine also informed of the military drills involving the mobilization reserve carried out by illegal armed groups in the occupied parts of Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts.

The OSCE SMM report of 24 November 2021 mentions drills in the "non-government-controlled territory" two times. First, it mentions eight explosions that the patrol heard northeast of Marynivka, a village situated near the border with Russia, 78 km east of the regional capital of Donetsk. The second mention goes as follows,

Location of live-fire drills in Donetsk Oblast on 23 November according to OSCE SMM assessment and pinpointed by Donbas.Realii. Map: Google Maps, Data: Euromaidan Press. ~

Location of live-fire drills in Donetsk Oblast on 23 November according to OSCE SMM assessment and pinpointed by Donbas.Realii. Map: Google Maps, Data: Euromaidan Press.

"At a checkpoint near Oleksandrivske (formerly Rozy Liuksemburh, non-government-controlled, 90km south-east of Donetsk), two members of the armed formations (one of whom visibly armed) denied the Mission passage into the settlement citing “ongoing training activities” in the area."

The Donbas.Realii journalists were unable to find any location on the satellite images of the seemingly more likely area of Oleksandrivske matching the features on the drill images.

However, the location not far from the SMM's first mention of the live-fire exercise proved to be a well-known training ground near Ternove. Donbas.Realii managed to match elements from the new photos from "DNR" tank drills and archive photos of other drills on the same ground in August 2020 with satellite imagery and pinpoint the exact locations.

Circled in red: pylons 330-500 kW electric transmission line (left) and structures for laying tank shells for armored vehicles (right). November 2021, area of Ternove, Donetsk Oblast. ~

Circled in red: pylons 330-500 kW electric transmission line (left) and structures for laying tank shells for armored vehicles (right). November 2021, area of Ternove, Donetsk Oblast.

Such a power line passes through only one of the training grounds in the occupied territory, previously identified by Donbas.Realii. Moreover, one of the videos by Russian-hybrid forces from August 2020 shows the same objects during the demonstration live-fire shooting of tank crews.  That fact confirmed the location and gave more objects in the area to pinpoint.

Circled in red: the same power line and structures in the video dated August 2020, area of Ternove, Donetsk Oblast. ~

Circled in red: the same power line and structures in the video dated August 2020, area of Ternove, Donetsk Oblast.

One of the frames in the 2020 video shows a power line pylon looking different, which helped to find the location in satellite images.

Here is the satellite image of this location. The power transmission line pylons are marked in red, the left side of the image features the different-shaped pylon. Characteristic traces of tank tracks are marked in yellow. Photo: Google Maps. Markers: Donbas.Realii ~

Here is the satellite image of this location. The power transmission line pylons are marked in red, the left side of the image features the different-shaped pylon. Characteristic traces of tank tracks are marked in yellow. Photo: Google Maps. Markers: Donbas.Realii

This is the location of this training ground shown in relation to the nearby city of Chystiakove (previously known as Torez) and the village of Ternove:

Location of the Russian-hybrid forces' training ground (marked in yellow) near Ternove, Donetsk Oblast. Photo: Google Maps ~

Location of the Russian-hybrid forces' training ground (marked in yellow) near Ternove, Donetsk Oblast. Photo: Google Maps

This and other military equipment bases in the Russian-occupied territory are shown on the map compiled by Donbas.Realii (in Ukrainian).

Further reading:

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