On Tuesday morning, the Russian Defense Ministry spokesman said some forces deployed near Ukraine had completed their exercises and were packing up to leave, leading to some reports that Russia was “deescalating.”
“Units of the southern and western military districts, having completed their tasks, have already begun loading onto rail and road transport and today they will begin moving to their military garrisons,” the ministry’s chief spokesman, Igor Konashenkov, said in a statement.
However, OSINT investigators and satellite images do not confirm a withdrawal; moreover, Konashenkov’s statement likely refers to the Russian troops stationed in Belarus for exercises.
Bellingcat member Christo Grozev tweeted that a joint OSINT task force monitoring Russian troop movements consisting of Bellingcat, the Conflict Intelligence Team, and The Insider Russia, so far see no evidence of a withdrawal of Russian troops from the Ukraine border.
Meanwhile, another initiative to map Russian troop movements from the Centre for Information Resilience geolocated a part of the footage claiming to be a withdrawal of Russian forces to Bakhchysarai in occupied Crimea.
Check out their map here:
A lot of footage is being posted online of Russian military movements along the Ukrainian border. We’re working with the #OSINT community to document, verify & map this information. You can find our map of verified movements here: https://t.co/2uqsSML5Qe pic.twitter.com/ToGku2xX8G
— Centre for Information Resilience (@Cen4infoRes) February 9, 2022
- In fact, new military camps continue to be built at the 🇷🇺 border with 🇺🇦, including the build-up of several military field hospitals in different areas of Belarus and Crimea, as well as stationing large amounts of Russian helicopters 30 kilometres from the border.
- As well, there has been Russian naval activity in the Bosphorus this week that would allow Russia to attempt an amphibious landing around either Odesa on the Black Sea or Mariupol on the Azov Sea in the case of a Russian invasion.
- Russian influence narratives, including those that allege Ukraine is “run by neo-Nazis;” that the conflict is NATO’s doing, or that the US military/energy lobby wants war all continue to be amplified, as does propaganda on TikTok demeaning the West and propping up Russia.
Additionally, new satellite images released by US-based Maxar Technologies reveal increased Russian military activity in western Russia, Belarus, and Crimea.
“Significant new activity includes the arrival of several large deployments of troop and attack helicopters, new deployments of ground attack aircraft and fighter-bomber jets to forward locations, the departure of multiple ground forces units from existing garrisons along with other combat units seen in convoy formation,” Maxar said in a release explaining the images it is sharing.
International Russia-related tensions are at their peak as roughly 147,000 troops are gathered near Ukrainian borders amid attempts at a de-facto blockade of the Black and Azov Seas and US warnings of an imminent Russian invasion in the closest days. Some western nations evacuate their embassies from Ukraine while urging their citizens to leave.
Additionally, International air insurance companies announced they stopped insuring aircraft for flights over Ukraine due high risks of hostilities starting 14 February. Some of the airlines were forced to suspend flights. In turn, the Ukrainian government decided to spend UAH 16.6 bn ($590 mn) to create an insurance fund to guarantee safe flights over Ukraine “from 14 February until the settlement of foreign policy threats.”
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