“One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn’t going to go off” Anton Chekhov “The Seagull”
Ukraine 2022 - Russian Forces
In March 2021, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a presidential decree to retake the territory of Donetsk and Luhansk, and inspected the front line. After that, the Russian army began to increase its troops to the Russian-Ukrainian border in April 2021, and reached two peaks in size in April and October of that year. Since the scale of the additional Russian army is not inferior to the scale of the Ukrainian army deployed to the east, and its weapons and equipment, training level, combat capability, etc. are far superior to the Ukrainian army, this "armed confrontation" of the Russian army is not only seen by the outside world. Supporting the autonomous forces in Donetsk and Luhansk is seen as a preparation to take the opportunity to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine and directly overthrow the Kiev regime.
By January 2022, as the Russian army began to pre-install logistical facilities directly related to combat operations, including field hospitals, the public opinion about the Russian army’s preparation for an offensive has spread in the United States and several European countries. By late January 2022 Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said the number of Russian troops massed on Ukraine's borders "are not enough for a full-scale invasion." The build-up of Russian forces started in late March 2021 with multiple battalion tactical groups [BTG] deployed to the border with Ukraine. These forces numbered 22,400 men, in addition to about 32,000 troops in Crimea and another 28,000 troops near Donbas – in total, about 90,000.
As of 30 March 2021, there were 28 battalion tactical groups of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation along the state border of Ukraine. Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Ruslan Khomchak said this at an extraordinary plenary meeting of the Verkhovna Rada. "As of March 30 of this year, along the state border of Ukraine and the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, there are 28 enemy battalion tactical groups, namely in the Bryansk, Voronezh, Rostov (regions - ed.) and on the territory of the temporarily occupied Crimea. But recently, from different regions of the Russian Federation, under the guise of control exercises for the winter period of training, maintaining combat readiness and general combat readiness for the upcoming joint strategic exercises West-2021, the RF Armed Forces have been gradually building up troops near the state border of Ukraine in the north, east and in the south, namely in the Bryansk and Voronezh regions and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea," Khomchak said.
In addition, according to Khomchak, in the temporarily occupied territories in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, groups of Russian occupation troops are deployed - 1 and 2 army corps, consisting of 14 combat brigades, regiments and support units of about 28 thousand people, who operate with the support of Russian regular troops. The Commander-in-Chief said that since 2014, during the occupation of the Crimean peninsula, Russia has increased the interspecific association of troops of the RF Armed Forces, which currently stood at about 32,700 military personnel.
In autumn 2021 and winter 2022, Russia mobilised 150,000 men on the Ukrainian border, deploying units and capabilities from all its military districts, including the Far East, and all twelve armies. This is the single largest military build-up by Russia in the past 30 years. In addition to the three motor rifle divisions, one airborne division and one naval infantry brigade permanently deployed in the region, Russia moved more than 60 motor rifle and tank battalions, some ten Iskander missile battalions and more than 30 artillery and rocket artillery battalions to the border with Ukraine. Russia has set up full logistic support for the force groups, bringing in additional command and rear units and forward-deploying munitions in the Ukrainian direction. The contingent is supported by a regionally dominant air force and Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, equipped with Kalibr missiles. Winter 2021-22 saw a significant upswing in the activities of Russian special services and Spetsnaz units against strategically important targets in Ukraine. The media in late 2021 kept repeating the "100,000 Russian troops near Ukraine" meme, but by mid-January 2022 the number was already 125,000 troops, and by 21 January 2022 was estimated at 127,000. The force was growing and would grow further with the arrival of troops from Russia's Central and Far East Military District. US sources indicated a total mobilisation approaching 300,000 troops. By 20 January 2022 Russia had massed an estimated 127,000 troops along Ukraine's borders and deployed a sizable force in Belarus for what Moscow and Minsk said would be snap military exercises.
As of August 2021, in the Western strategic direction Ukraine was directly threatened by the 20th Combined Arms Army. Its main strike forces are the 3rd and 144th Motorized Rifle Divisions. The 448th Missile Brigade of the 20th Army is armed with Iskander operational-tactical missile systems (OTRK). The 8th Combined Arms (Shock) Army, consisting of the 150th Motorized Rifle Division, the 20th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade, and the 1st (Donetsk) and 2nd (Luhansk) Army Corps, operates in the South-Western Strategic Direction. The army provides for the creation of missile brigades OTRK "Iskander". The total number of ground units of the RF Armed Forces along the Ukrainian border was 87,000, up to 1,100 tanks, up to 2,600 armored combat vehicles, up to 1,100 artillery systems, up to 360 volley fire missile systems, and 18 operational and tactical missile systems.
The total number of ground forces of the Russian armed forces in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine in Donetsk and Luhansk regions was about 35,000 servicemen, up to 480 units of tanks, up to 910 armored fighting vehicles, up to 720 artillery systems, up to 200 missile systems.
In Crimea, a powerful group of troops has been created, covering land, air and sea components and numbering about 33,000 servicemen. Its main strike force is the 22nd Army Corps. The military infrastructure created on the peninsula is fully ready for the deployment and use of nuclear weapons. The formation of mobilization deployment centers directly close to Ukraine's border was underway, on the basis of which up to 4 Combined Arms divisions (Boguchar, Kamensk-Shakhtinsky, Novoozerne) may be formed. Equipment and armaments included tanks, armored combat vehicles, artillery systems, volley fire missile systems and operational-tactical missile systems.
The second echelon of a Russian invasion might include the First Tank Army, part of the Western Military District (ZVO). It includes the well-known Taman and Kantemirov divisions, in terms of their combat composition are powerful compounds with real combat experience. The First Guards Tank Army is in constant full combat readiness and is considered to be the largest unit in the Russian army. There are about 1,000 tanks and at least twice as many other armored vehicles.
The 49 and 58 armies of the Southern Military District of the Russian Federation are in reserve in the South-Western strategic direction. They can be used to intensify the offensive of the 8th Army in the east of Ukraine, as well as to quickly strengthen the Crimean group to attack from the south.
The Ukrainian coast of the Black and Azov Seas has a large number of landing dangerous areas. The main subjects of this threat are: the 22nd Army Corps of the Russian Federation, the Russian Black Sea Fleet Marine Brigade, three air regiments and an airborne battalion stationed in Feodosia.
The military aviation capabilities of the Russian Air Force, within the operational order of application in relation to Ukraine, are up to 440 aircraft, including 330 combat aircraft, up to 210 helicopters, including 150 attack and multi-purpose. The Russian Black Sea Fleet has a high combat potential. Over the past five years, the Russian Black Sea Fleet has replenished with 16 new warships, boats and submarines, most of which are equipped with Caliber-NK and Caliber-PL missile systems capable of hitting targets over long distances.
The Center of Defense Strategies’ experts Andriy Zagorodnyuk, Alina Frolova, Oleksiy Pavliuchyk were quoted by the Kyiv Independent "At the moment, there are not enough Russian troops on Ukraine’s borders and no fully formed military groups needed to conduct a strategic offensive against Ukraine. According to our estimates, supported by many of the indicators below, a large-scale general military operation can’t take place for at least the next two or three weeks. As of Jan. 23, we do not observe the required formation of several hundred thousand troops, not only on the border with Ukraine, but also on Russian territory behind the front line. Besides, we do not see the creation of strategic reserve units, nor the mobilization of the necessary connections and units on the basis of the centers for mobilization deployment. Russian troops move mainly as battalion tactical groups (mechanized, tank and airborne troops) and tactical groups (artillery, multiple launch missile systems). Russia hasn’t completed the formation of groups of troops in operational areas."
Col. Benjamin G. Johnson, senior US Army fellow at the Scowcroft Center, stated "If it intends to attack Ukraine with a heavy force, the presence of large amounts of medical equipment and manned mobile field hospitals will be an indicator. Field ambulances are easy to identify because of the red crosses. There have been sporadic reports of Russian field hospitals...."
Russia's military finally brought in many of the enablers it was lacking including medical and logistics to carry out a potential military operation against Ukraine, a western intelligence official told Richard Engel of NBC News on 26 January 2022. Russia's military buildup near Ukraine expanded to include supplies of blood along with other medical materials that would allow it to treat casualties, a key indicator of Moscow's military readiness, three U.S. officials told Reuters 28 January 2022.
In the Western Military District (ZVO), a planned check of the combat readiness of formations and military units under the leadership of the commander of the troops, Colonel-General Alexander Zhuravlev, was completed 29 January 2022. “All the tasks facing the troops as part of the combat readiness check have been completed in full. We continue the planned activities of combat training at the training grounds. There is a whole range of measures ahead, including bilateral tactical exercises involving aviation and air defense systems,” Colonel General Alexander Zhuravlev said.
After the march, units from the communications brigades, as well as advanced detachments of engineering units and radiation, chemical and biological protection (RCBZ) arrive at the checkpoint after the march. The aircraft involved in the inspection also returned to their base airfields. The commanders of all levels organized the maintenance of weapons and military equipment. The units are replenishing the necessary stocks of fuel and lubricants, missiles and ammunition used up during tactical exercises. A scheduled check of combat readiness in the troops of the Western Military District is carried out at the beginning of the winter and summer training periods in order to check the readiness of units to perform tasks for their intended purpose.
The buildup of Russian forces in Belarus is the largest number stationed in the country since the end of the Cold War, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg claimed on 03 February 2022. In a statement made following a meeting with North Macedonia Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski, Stoltenberg accused Russia of sending combat units numbering “30,000 people,” including Spetsnaz special forces, to Belarusian training grounds.
The Russian Guard has begun preparations for the operational-strategic exercise Zaslon-2022. As official representative of the department Valery Gribakin told TASS 03 February 2022, the transfer of forces to the areas of practical training is carried out from different districts of the Russian Guard. Earlier, a number of media reported that residents of several border regions of the country drew attention to convoys with military equipment of the National Guard. "The National Guard is preparing to conduct the Zaslon-2022 operational-strategic exercise. Such exercises are held annually by the department on a planned basis. The transfer of forces and means to practical training areas will be carried out from different districts of the National Guard troops of the Russian Federation by military aviation, as well as by road and rail transport ", - he said.
On 15 February 2022 Igor Konashenkov, chief spokesperson for the Russian Ministry of Defense, released a video announcing that some of Moscow’s troops and equipment participating in joint exercises in Belarus, near the Ukrainian border, would be withdrawing to their bases in Russia, wiith the Union Courage 2022 operation coming to an end. “The divisions of the South and West Military Districts have finished their tasks and have already begun loading the rail and automobile transport, and today will begin moving back to their military garrisons,” Konashenkov explained. The drills were scheduled to last until February 20.
Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, said: “Different statements are constantly being made from the Russian Federation, so we already have a rule: we will see, then we will believe.”
On 15 February 2022 Biden said there are 150,000 Russian troops around Ukraine, up from the estimates of more than 130,000 forces that officials were giving last week. On reports that some Russian troops have pull back, Biden emphasizes "we have not yet verified that." He said "Our analysts indicate they remain very much in a threatening position... The Russian defense minister reported today that some military units are leaving their positions near Ukraine. That would be good....We have not yet verified that...Indeed, our analysts indicate that they remain very much in a threatening position."
The number of Russian military stations surrounding Ukraine has risen to 149,000, according to the Ukrainian Defence Minister, Oleksiy Reznikov. "We are watching the divisions of the Russian troops, which number 129,000. And put together with naval and air components, this figure reaches 149,000," Oleksiy Reznikov told parliament 18 February 2022.
Ambassador Michael Carpenter, adressing the joint session of the Forum for Security Cooperation and Permanent Council, Vienna February 18, 2022, stated "We assess that Russia probably has massed between 169,000-190,000 personnel in and near Ukraine as compared with about 100,000 on January 30. This estimate includes military troops along the border, in Belarus, and in occupied Crimea; Russian National Guard and other internal security units deployed to these areas; and Russian-led forces in eastern Ukraine. While Russia has sought to downplay or deceive the world about their ground and air preparations, the Russian military has publicized its large-scale naval exercises in the Black Sea, Baltic Sea and the Arctic. Russia has publicly said the Black Sea exercise alone involves more than 30 ships, and we assess that amphibious landing ships from the Northern and Baltic Fleets were sent to the Black Sea to augment forces there.... this is the most significant military mobilization in Europe since the Second World War."
The US claimed Russia had close to three-quarters of its conventional forces postured against Ukraine. Citing the latest intelligence assessment, an unnamed U.S. official told CNN that having such a deployment within striking distance of Ukraine is highly unusual. The official added this is part of the reason why Washington believes Moscow is ready to attack. CNN said some 120 of Russia's 160 Battalion Tactical Groups were positioned within 60 kilometers of Ukraine. Citing the official, CNN added as many as 190,000 Russian troops combined with separatist forces could have been deployed around Ukraine. Some 35 of Moscow's 50 air defense battalions had also reportedly been deployed.
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