Military Capabilities

Russian buildup around Belgorod continues

02 April 2014
Airbus Defence and Space imagery shows evidence of a Russian military buildup in Belgorod. Source: © CNES 2014, Distribution Astrium Services / Spot Image S.A. / IHS

Key Points

  • Russia continues to move military units closer to the border region adjacent to Ukraine
  • Airbus Defence and Space satellite imagery illustrates Russian troop deployments to a training range near Belgorod

Despite Russian claims to have withdrawn some troops from its borders with Ukraine, satellite imagery shows that Russian Army deployments to the border region appear to continue.

Last week, IHS Jane's noted the deployment of armoured units to the Novozybkov region in Bryansk oblast, which lies north of Kiev. As time passes, the specific locations of deployed units can be ascertained using satellite imagery.

Airbus Defence and Space imagery captured on 21 March 2014 shows Russian troop formations deployed to a training centre west of Belgorod. As current reporting continues to illuminate Russian military deployments in the region, satellite imagery represents a method of verifying both equipment deployments and deployment locations. Troops deployed to Belgorod reportedly originate from the 76th Air Assault Division in Pskov and the 106th Guards Airborne Division in Tula.

Satellite imagery of the bivouac area at the Belgorod training centre, captured on 21 March 2014, indicates a significant presence of military vehicles consistent with those found in an airborne division. Furthermore, a significant number of tents are present to house personnel.

Additional satellite imagery captured on 31 March 2014 indicates an increased troop presence at Belgorod, including activity around the training centre's airfield. Photographs of Belgorod initially depicted helicopter activity; while not present in 21 March imagery, 1 x Mi-8/17 'Hip' and 2 x Mi-24/35 'Hind' helicopters are present in 31 March imagery. Also visible are multiple temporary helipads and possible fuel tankers.

On 31 March 2014, IHS Jane's reported a limited withdrawal of Russian forces from the Ukrainian border region, citing President Putin's claim that troops deployed near Kadamovsky withdrew from their positions. Increased troop presence at Belgorod indicates the possibility of continued troop build-up in border regions. However, increased deployments at Belgorod, noted in 31 March imagery, possibly transpired prior to Putin's announcement of a limited withdrawal, with available satellite imagery only able to discern that the build-up took place between 21 and 31 March.

Activity around the Belgorod airstrip on 31 March 2014. (© CNES 2014, Distribution Astrium Services / Spot Image S.A. / IHS)Activity around the Belgorod airstrip on 31 March 2014. (© CNES 2014, Distribution Astrium Services / Spot Image S.A. / IHS)

East of Belgorod is a commercial airfield. At the time of writing, there is no evidence in satellite imagery of any military aviation activity at the airfield. A possible precursor to airborne insertion into Ukraine would be the arrival of airlift assets such as Ilyushin Il-76 'Candid' strategic transport aircraft to Belgorod's commercial airfield.



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