by Thomas Bullock
April 8, 2021
Open-source intelligence specialist at Janes Thomas Bullock identifies fourteen ground troop units and Iskander short-range ballistic missile systems at the Ukrainian border.
Janes has identified at least fourteen Russian Ground Troop units that have moved or are moving to the Ukrainian area of operations since late March through open-source intelligence.
Janes has identified an influx of Central Military District troops from the 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 entering Voronezh by train.
Janes has also identified the deployment of Iskander short-range ballistic missile systems, likely belonging to the 119 Missile Brigade, to Voronezh from the Sverdlovsk region.
A staging area has been established at a training ground south of Voronezh city equipped with P-260T Redut-2US long-range telecommunications complexes and a field hospital. The P-260T Redut-2US is a long-range army-level communications system that is not used at the battalion or brigade level, it is indicative of the scale of the deployment.
Crimea and the neighbouring Krasnodar regions have seen a similar build-up of troops and equipment including BMP-3 IFVs and 2S4 Tyulpan 240 mm self-propelled mortars. This time coming from Southern Military District units stationed hundreds of kilometres away in the southern and western Caucasus.
Since late March, Russia has been identified moving large quantities of military equipment to its Ukrainian border, specifically the Crimea, Voronezh, and Rostov regions. The Russian Ministry of Defence has belatedly labelled these as control-check exercises for the Southern Military District and Black Sea Fleet and later still, declared national control-checks covering the entire military. It appears locally stationed units in Voronezh, the Southern Military District and eastern Crimea have indeed begun training exercises.
While Russia’s intentions are still unclear, this movement stands out as possibly the largest unannounced movement of troops since Russia’s invasion of Crimea and eastern
Ukraine in 2015. Video footage shows trains carrying Russian troops are still heading to the area of operations, with some according to the freight tracking service GdeVagon not scheduled to arrive in Crimea until mid-April.
Current indicators suggest it is unlikely the forces deployed to the border are in an offensive posture. But this could change if Russia continues to move forces to the Ukrainian border. Janes has identified the movement of army air defence systems into the Voronezh region, which have not been observed with prior movements. While there is a strategic air defence unit based in Crimea, there had been no clear indications that tactical air defence assets were being transported to match the armoured forces that had been deployed prior to this.
Furthermore, the Russian Ministry of Defence announced the Black Sea Fleet would be reinforced with 10 landing and artillery vessels from the Caspian Flotilla, as part of the ongoing control check exercises. This is not a common occurrence and was not even seen during the Southern Military District’s district level exercise Kavkaz-2020 last summer. Additionally, two Black Sea Fleet landing ships are believed to be operating in the Mediterranean Sea and could easily join the Black Sea Fleet.
The true extent of the cross-military district deployments also remains to be seen. The latest footage of regional exercises from the Russian Ministry of Defence indicates at least elements of some units, such as the 74th Motorised Brigade, are still in Siberia. It is however not clear when this footage was filmed.
Special Note: Russian Armed Forces are deploying massive atomic mortars to the border with Ukraine, according to videos posted on social media. Due to their large size, they can fire high-explosive, incendiary, guided, cluster, neutron and nuclear warheads, some of which are capable of hitting targets at a distance of about 20 km. They can also fire the “Smel’chak” (“Daredevil”), a laser-guided round.