Apr 6, 2021
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What does the large-scale movement of Russian troops near the borders of Ukraine mean?

Both in Kiev and in the capitals of Western countries, they are actively frightening the population with “preparations for a Russian invasion of Ukraine.” As confirmation of such preparation, photographs of the movement of military equipment obtained from social networks are issued. These photos do not appear to be fake – but they mean something completely different.

Judging by open sources, it is quite obvious that the Russian army in recent weeks has indeed been carrying out some kind of “movement” in the Western and Southern military districts. Including in the Crimea, where not so long ago there were large-scale exercises of paratroopers with the participation of the 7th division from Novorossiysk and the marines of the Black Sea Fleet.

In addition, it is known about plans to redeploy the 56th airborne assault brigade to Feodosia, which will be reorganized into a regiment. Also, numerous eyewitnesses report on social networks about the movement of columns of military equipment. Including tanks and armored personnel carriers in the regions bordering Ukraine – Rostov, Voronezh and Bryansk.

The most active redeployment of Russian armored vehicles was noted along the Crimean bridge – road and rail. It was even blocked for several hours when the military columns moved.

In the Rostov region, agricultural machinery manufacturers complain about the shortage of railway platforms that are used for military needs. This indicates that the army received the order to move it unexpectedly, therefore it “confiscates” the cars without a preliminary application to the Russian Railways. Some problems arose on the highways due to heavy armored vehicles – tanks and self-propelled artillery mounts of 152-mm caliber.

The numerous videos posted on the Web of the movement of military equipment in the West have already been called “frightening”, while in Ukraine they have become the reason for accusations against Russia of preparing an “invasion.” The Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Colonel-General Ruslan Khomchak (a graduate of the Moscow Higher Combined Arms Command School in 1988) reported that Russia has deployed 28 battalion tactical groups along the Ukrainian border.

He also claims that 14 brigades, regiments and units numbering up to 28 thousand people are allegedly deployed on the territory of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. It must be assumed that here we are talking about the Donbass militias – there are no units of the Russian Armed Forces here, their presence would have been detected at least by the US space intelligence.

However, as they say, fear has big eyes. For example, in a tank brigade (regiment) of the Russian army, there are about 95 tanks in the state, and more than 300 in a division. This is not counting infantry fighting vehicles, armored personnel carriers and other tracked and wheeled vehicles. That is, if even a regiment moves, it looks more than impressive from the outside, even by rail, even by road. Without accurate, confirmed data about the number of troops participating in the current maneuvers, one can only speak presumably.

In Russia, the movement of troops and military equipment is explained by the conduct of scheduled exercises associated with the ending winter training period and the passing of combat readiness exams. And they explain it quite reasonably and logically.

In the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, the academic year does not coincide with the calendar year. The winter period of study runs from December to April, and the summer period from June to October. Based on their results, at the final stage, final (control) inspections of various levels are carried out. As a rule, these are command and staff exercises. Accordingly, spring and autumn.

The largest of them are at the level of one or several military districts. The last – “Caucasus-2020” – were held in early September last year by the forces of the Southern Military District. The current joint exercises of the Western Military District and the Armed Forces of Belarus “West-2021” are scheduled for September 10-16, also by the end of the summer training period. Units and subunits that are not involved in large maneuvers usually participate in smaller-scale exercises, this can be both final shooting and driving of military equipment. But in any case, the equipment leaves the boxes, and the personnel are removed from the “winter apartments” and sent to the landfill.

In general, the Russian army is conducting spring final exercises (check-ups), which, as usual, are scheduled for April. Another question is whether the equipment and troops will return to their places of permanent deployment after their completion, or will they be “held back” at training grounds near the borders of Ukraine. Ultimately, they can engage in combat training anywhere and at any time.

In most cases, the final checks with the conduct of large-scale exercises fall precisely at the end of the summer training period – September. However, in the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, sudden inspections have already become commonplace, when huge masses of troops are set in motion. The last such test, for example, took place shortly before the Kavkaz-2020 exercises with the participation of units of the Southern and Western districts, and they really came as a surprise, primarily for Ukraine, which panicked about this only the next day after the start of the exercises.

The current exercises of the 7th Novorossiysk Airborne Assault Division in Crimea, which took place in March this year, were also unexpected. To some extent, they can be considered demonstration – they were held in response to the pulling together of additional forces of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in the area of ​​the demarcation line in Donbass.

But both Ukrainian sources and Western media are missing an important nuance. Russian military equipment is now mostly moving demonstratively, in the daytime and without proper camouflage. The Russian Armed Forces are not trying in any way to conceal the movement of troops. For example, during the previous major exercises (and there have been quite a few of them lately), there was no such “show” – the military columns and echelons moved in the dark, using country and secondary roads. Again, the “halo” of movement is quite clearly marked – a part of the Southern and Western military districts bordering Ukraine.

Thus, it can be assumed that the current movements of Russian troops in the south of the country – carried out in full accordance with the current plan of combat training – are also a signal to Kiev.

Indeed, in Ukraine, as Moscow has repeatedly stated, preparations for a renewed attack on Donbass are clearly visible. We can also recall the words of President Vladimir Putin, who said that “in any case, we will not abandon the Donbass.”

The Kremlin reasonably states that the movement of armed forces within the territory of Russia “should not bother anyone.” At the same time, the press secretary of the Russian president Dmitry Peskov says that the measures taken by Moscow to ensure the security of its borders are being carried out against the background of the increased activity of the North Atlantic Alliance in Europe. “You know that along the perimeter of Russia’s borders there is an increased activity of the armed forces of NATO countries, other associations, individual countries, and so on and so forth. All this obliges us to be on the alert, ”notes Peskov. Note that the demonstrative activity of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in this region began, among other things, as a response to the significant strengthening of the Armed Forces on the border with Donbass and the subsequent provocations on the demarcation line.

Presumably, the Main Directorate of the Russian General Staff (GRU) had reason to present to the military-political leadership its data on the movement of troops in the country, which itself is actively asking for the status of a “potential enemy” for Russia. No matter how bitter it is to realize this, it is Ukraine that considers (officially) the Russian Federation an “aggressor country”, with all the ensuing consequences, up to and including the conduct of hostilities. How can one not be on the alert?

Moreover, Kiev constantly hints at support from the United States and NATO, in the event of an armed conflict, which it itself is ready to unleash as a provocation.

The current tactics of Russia’s actions against the background of a possible escalation of the conflict in Donbass is not new. There are threats on the external frontiers – you need to react to them in advance. Moreover, with the greatest secrecy and efficiency – and at the same time a demonstration of military capabilities. And for the benefit of military education and training. So it was in 2008 in South Ossetia. Then the GRU issued information that Georgia, at the suggestion of President Saakashvili and the assurances he received of support from the United States, was preparing an invasion of South Ossetia, where the Russian peacekeepers were stationed.

The date of the attack by the Georgian army on Tskhinvali was supposed to be in mid-September. The 58th Combined Arms Army then held “warning” exercises with live fire in South Ossetia, giving a sign to Tbilisi that it would not leave the Ossetians in trouble. Having fired off with training shells, the army units left the region, prudently leaving a battalion tactical group there. The one that later played a major role in the confrontation with the Georgian army.

The experience turned out to be attractive – keeping troops (or at least advanced groups) in the area of ​​the alleged armed conflict is more effective than later pulling them in from their places of permanent deployment. And so the exercises are carried out as part of the combat training program, and they can be quickly used in case of a change in the situation.

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