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Russian troops massed around Ukraine now ready for ‘various offensive scenarios’: digital sleuths

Russian military equipment on move towards Ukrainian borders. Collage: CITeam
Russian troops massed around Ukraine now ready for ‘various offensive scenarios’: digital sleuths
As all eyes are on the east-Ukrainian Donbas region, Russian troops massed around Ukraine continue preparing for a possible offensive.

“We believe at the moment they are ready to execute various offensive scenarios,” says the Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT) of digital sleuths.

Here we publish the translation of the Russian-language CIT report.

Currently, the attention of the world community is riveted to the events in the Donbas, massive shellings of the Ukraine-controlled territory, the deaths of the Ukrainian military, provocations and statements by the leadership of the Luhansk and Donetsk “republics” about Ukraine’s alleged preparation for an offensive.

Meanwhile, the Russian armed forces continue to prepare for a possible attack on Ukraine. The transportation of equipment is still ongoing, but we believe that Russian troops are now ready to execute various scenarios of aggression, from an operation in the Donbas to a large-scale invasion of Ukraine and attempts to seize large cities.

The satellite imagery and videos on social media show military trucks and armor in field camps and helicopters at field airstrips and landing pads, often as close as 30 kilometers to Ukraine’s border. Lately, in the Belarusian territory, the Russian columns and trains were spotted moving near the borders of Kyiv and Chernihiv oblasts of Ukraine. In the same area, a pontoon bridge over the Pripyat River has been erected again. Satellite imagery also indicates the transfer of additional aviation, for example, Su-34 fighter-bombers to the airport Primorsko-Akhtarsk on the shore of the Sea of Azov.

There are also signs of preparing a large-scale airborne operation as the airborne equipment carrying parachute systems was spotted in Tula. Later, apparently, the same equipment was filmed on a train that moved towards Belarus. According to the Russian Railways database, this train left Tula and it most likely transports the equipment of the 51st airborne regiment, in all probability, of the 106th Guards Airborne Division stationed in Tula. Robert Lee, a doctoral candidate at King’s College London, believes, that in the event of an escalation, Russian troops are able to carry out an airborne regimental operation, as well as naval brigade landing.

All this happens in the foreground of the Grom nuclear exercises, in which launches of cruise and ballistic missiles take place. According to Robert Lee, these exercises can be a signal to NATO not to interfere in the possible Russian operation against Ukraine.

With these preparations, several videos of the alleged withdrawal of troops published by the Russian Defense Ministry and its Zvezda TV channel don’t inspire much optimism. We weren’t able to independently confirm that at least one of the trains shown in the videos actually arrived in the location of a permanent base.

However, even if all the shown units were indeed withdrawn, then the total scale of the withdrawal is not more than 3-4 battalion tactical groups. However, according to the latest estimates by American sources, the number of these regular autonomous formations near Ukraine’s borders has amounted to 125 (i.e., up to 3/4 of all 168 in Russia’s Armed Forces).

Other signs of withdrawal, like two columns of the National Guard forces and one column of fuel tankers, spotted by a TV Rain correspondent going towards Moscow, also seem insignificant against the ongoing approach of equipment to the borders. Moreover, they can be moving to Bryansk Oblast or Belarus.

Given, as we believe, the artificial escalation of the situation in the Donbas and in adjacent Rostov Oblast, we can assume that in recent days the probability of a large-scale Russian operation against Ukraine has not decreased, but rather even increased.

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