Imagery Reveals Destabilizing Russian Forces Near Ukraine Border

Apr 10, 2014

NATO Plans Balanced Response to Reassure Allies

SHAPE, BELGIUM - Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) released a package of satellite imagery to media outlets from across Europe on Thursday, 10 April 2014, that shows details of the location and type of Russian units NATO has observed along the border with Ukraine. NATO assesses that the Russian military has approximately 35-40,000 troops in the vicinity of the Ukrainian border, a claim Russian officials have repeatedly denied is a cause for concern.

Russian helicopters near Belgorod
- Photo courtesy of DigitalGlobe

Brigadier Gary Deakin, the Director of the Comprehensive Crisis Operations and Management Centre (CCOMC) at SHAPE, spoke to reporters regarding SHAPE’s assessment of the images.
"The Russians have an array of capabilities including aircraft, helicopters, special forces, tanks, artillery, infantry fighting vehicles… and these could move in a matter of hours,” said Brig. Deakin.
"These forces have a destabilizing effect and present serious implications for the security and stability of the region,” he added.

Russian artillery battalion near Novocherkassk
- Photo courtesy of DigitalGlobe

SHAPE is observing a small amount of Russian administrative movement on the ground, but the overall lack of activity is raising flags among military staff. According to Brig. Deakin, Russian units have moved into the region and are massing in various locations in the vicinity of the border, rather than conducting specific exercise manoeuvers.
This assessment is shared by the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Philip Breedlove, who said the previous day that he was concerned by the Russian build-up. In speaking about the Russian force he said: "I would characterize it as a combined arms army… it has all of the provisioning and enabling that it needs to accomplish military objectives if given them."

Tanks and Infantry Fighting Vehicle elements of the Russian Motor Rifle Regiment near Kuzminka
- Photo courtesy of DigitalGlobe

NATO continues to monitor events closely and has prudently increased AWACS surveillance flights over Romania and Poland in order to maintain awareness of activity in Ukraine. The Alliance has also significantly increased air policing activity and the number of aircraft dedicated to this task.
In early April, NATO Foreign Ministers directed SACEUR to develop additional options to reassure NATO Allies. 

Probable Airborne or Special Forces Brigade at Yeysk
- Photo courtesy of DigitalGlobe

SHAPE has submitted a range of options and recommendations to the North Atlantic Council, through the International Military Staff.
"Essentially what we are looking at is a package of land, air and maritime measures that would build assurance for our eastern most allies,” said General Breedlove. NATO has repeatedly called upon Russia to de-escalate the situation by withdrawing troops along Ukraine’s border.

Fighterjets and helicopters at Primorko-Akhtarsk Air Base
- Photo courtesy of DigitalGlobe

Story by SHAPE Public Affairs Office


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