Russia vs Ukraine – ‘Potential Imminent Crisis’ – Russian Troops Move To The Border

In recent days, social media users have begun to publish and distribute quite massively videos of Russian military equipment moving along railways and roads, reportedly towards the border with Ukraine. We collected these videos and mapped them (geolocating videos taken in rural areas is difficult enough, so the location is indicated by eyewitnesses).

Most of the videos are from Crimea and the Rostov region. They show tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, howitzers and self-propelled artillery installations, as well as trucks for transporting personnel. It is worth noting that in at least two different videos, the side numbers of some (but not all) cars are painted over with white paint - both of them were probably filmed in Crimea back in February.

The scale of the transfer of forces can be very significant: for example, Kommersant discovered that the Ministry of Defense had requisitioned a large number of railway platforms, even disrupting the supply of agricultural equipment ahead of the sowing campaign.

The head of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Ruslan Khomchak also reported on the additional deployment of Russian forces in Crimea and near the border with Ukraine during his report to parliament. According to him, this "poses a threat to the military security of the state."

The concentration of Russian forces is also noted by New York Times sources among American officials, citing a figure of approximately 4,000 military personnel. According to the NYT, the US European Command has raised the watch level from “a possible crisis” to “a potential impending crisis” —that is, to the highest level.

In turn, "official" sources in the "republics" of Donbass talk about an allegedly impending Ukrainian offensive. Similar messages appeared in early March, and recently the former commander of the "DPR" Igor Girkin announced a new date - mid-April. These messages are supported by personnel of the transfer of Ukrainian equipment by rail in the direction of Crimea and Donbass. Ukrainian officials have denied accusations of plotting such an offensive. The command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine did not comment on the transfer of forces, although it has repeatedly announced the conduct of exercises near the administrative border with Crimea and over the Black Sea.

All this is happening against the background of the aggravation of the situation in the east of Ukraine: only on March 26, in the area of ​​the Shumy settlement of the Donetsk region, four Ukrainian servicemen were killed under shelling. The day before, the OSCE monitoring mission recorded 493 cases of ceasefire violations - the largest escalation since mid-February (usually 10 to 100 violations are recorded per day). The Kremlin reacted to the events, declaring the threat of "an extremely dangerous scenario of power."

It is hard to believe that the threat of a power scenario came from Ukraine, which fixes the concentration of Russian forces on its borders. As for the assumptions about the impending invasion of Russian regular units into Ukraine, it is difficult to draw unambiguous conclusions here. It should be noted that there are reports of large-scale exercises on the territory of the Southern Military District and in Crimea itself. However, a significant part of the mentioned videos were filmed after March 25, when both those and other exercises had already ended.

The movement of equipment after these dates could be explained by the return to the places of permanent deployment, however, we did not find a video that would capture the departure of Russian equipment from Crimea - it turns out that at least a reinforced group of Russian troops remains on the peninsula (this was also stated in his report and the head of the Ukrainian General Staff Khomchak). The already mentioned NYT material says that the American military expected the withdrawal of Russian troops from the border after March 23, but this did not happen (after which the threat level was raised).

It is possible that Russian forces have concentrated on the Ukrainian border in order to put pressure on the Ukrainian authorities, which have recently taken active steps against organizations and individuals who are considered agents of the Kremlin's influence. An attempt at such pressure can be attributed to the recent negotiations between the leaders of Russia, France and Germany (that is, the countries of the "Normandy Four" without the participation of Ukraine), where the Kremlin blamed Kiev for the escalation of the conflict. In any case, the same General Khomchak, in an interview on the eve of his speech in the Rada, stated that the Ukrainian military is not yet observing preparations for the Russian invasion itself.

We continue to monitor the situation around the strengthening of the Russian group in the border areas and ask readers to share eyewitness accounts or information from friends of the military ( or via telegram @leviev).