This weekend, the Russian military conducted live-fire tank exercises with 1,500 soldiers in those areas and others nearby. Russian Federal Security Service, FSB, A Ukrainian Navy ship was intercepted It claims it is conducting “provocation” in the Sea of Azov. And Putin, the Kremlin and the country’s state-run media spewed out increasingly belligerent rhetoric.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters this week that Putin has not made a decision on whether to launch another large-scale invasion of Ukraine. But U.S. intelligence and military analysts warn they have enough Russian forces if they decide to do so.
“There is no indication that Russia is pulling troops away from Ukraine, but there is evidence that Russia continues to send more ground troops near the border,” Rob Lee, a Russian military expert and PhD candidate in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London, told BuzzFeed News. “I expect Russia to maintain an enhanced military posture near Ukraine for the foreseeable future … even if they don’t escalate in Ukraine.”
Konrad Muzyka, a defense analyst focused on Russia and Belarus, analyzed the Maxar Technologies images for BuzzFeed News. He said Russia had formed a new regiment in its 3rd Motor Rifle Division, and said the group was responsible for most of the troop and equipment surge in Soloti seen in satellite images between September 7 and December 5. That was President Joe Biden’s call with Putin two days earlier.
“The regiment is based on BMP-3Ms [Russian infantry fighting vehicles] In mid-November it was withdrawn from the 22nd Central Reserve and Maintenance Tank Base in Bye,” he said, referring to the city northwest of Moscow. “The same facility delivered BMP-3Ms to a new motor rifle regiment in the 18th Motor Rifle Division in Kaliningrad. In total, between mid-November and early December, about 200 new vehicles appeared in Soloti, although not all of them came from purchases.
Maxar senior director Stephen Wood told BuzzFeed News that the recent increase in some of the vehicles seen in the Dec. 5 image may represent military units returning after participating in large ground-force exercises in Russia in the fall.
In Opuk, Muzyka said, it is difficult to know what is indicated in the satellite images taken on November 27. “In the last two months, there has been a lot of movement in and out of Crimea. This is probably done to obscure the scale of Russian forces.