Russia is preparing for a full-scale military conflict with Ukraine as it has amassed a large number of troops and weapons, including Su-34 fighter jets, along their shared border, the latest satellite images show.
The images released by Maxar Technologies reveal a massive Russian buildup with more than 100,000 soldiers, military equipment including armored weapons and warplanes.
The satellite images captured between March 27 and April 16 show that Russia’s deployment of its warplanes near the border with Ukraine and in Crimea has been far bigger than previously estimated.
These warplanes, specifically the Flanker series such as the SU-34s seen in these images, are said to be recent deployments. Based on the Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker air superiority fighter, the Su-34 is designed for tactical deployment against ground and naval targets.
The April 16 image of the Saki airbase in Crimea shows Su-27 variants along with Su-24 and Su-30SM attack aircraft, which were not there previously.
This large number of attack and air superiority aircraft could be used to dominate the skies over Ukraine and halt any advances made by the Ukrainian military against Russian separatists.
Compared to this, the Ukrainian Air Force operates about 35 MiG-29s, over 15 SU-24 attack aircraft, and 13 SU-25 close-air-support aircraft, and about 25 Su-27s.
The Russian military build-up has been widely covered by the international media. Earlier this month, Janes reported that at least 14 Russian Ground Troop units from the Central Military District’s 74th and 35th Motorised Brigades, 120th Artillery Brigade and the 6th Tank Regiment, equipped with tanks, infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs), and long-range artillery including 2S19 MSTA-S 152 mm self-propelled guns, TOS-1A thermobaric multiple rocket launchers (MRLs), and BM-27 Uragan 220 mm MRLs entered Voronezh.
Along with this, Janes also reported the presence of Iskander short-range ballistic missile systems. Also, Crimea and other adjoining areas like Krasnodar, Voronezh, and Rostov are witnessing a buildup of the Russian armored equipment like BMP-3 IFVs and 2S4 Tyulpan 240 mm self-propelled mortars.
The large-scale troop deployment near the Ukrainian border has added to the already escalating tensions over the disputed Donbas region.
There has been a sharp rise in ceasefire violations in March and April even as the Russian Navy has increased activity in the Black Sea.
[1/2] “I think it removes some of the uncertainty and doubt about what is really happening in a fairly critical region of the world.” -CEO Dan Jablonksy on satellite photos taken by Maxar between Mar 27-Apr 16 of the Russian military buildup in Crimea. https://t.co/LKD5VxKegN
— Maxar Technologies (@Maxar) April 20, 2021
Why Is Russia Intervening In Ukraine?
The Russia-Ukraine conflict is an ongoing one. Since 2014, the Ukrainian military and the Donbas separatists, aided and abetted by Moscow, have been fighting, resulting in the death of 13,000 people, according to UN estimates.
After Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Moscow conducted a controversial referendum in which Crimeans purportedly voted to join the Russian Federation. The region was then formally accepted as part of Russia.
Two months after the March 16, 2014 referendum, demonstrations by pro-Russian groups in the Donbas area of Ukraine escalated into a war between the Ukrainian government and the Russian-backed separatist forces of the self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics.
Since then, the Ukrainian forces have been engaged in a war with these separatists backed by the Russian military.
It is said seven percent of Ukraine’s area is still under Russian occupation, called “temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine” under Ukrainian law.