Russia moves equipment to Crimea, continues to activate other units

Russia has deployed elements of at least three units to Crimea since 12 November. They are equipped with armoured personnel carriers (APCs), self-propelled howitzers (SPHs), anti-aircraft missile systems, and main battle tanks (MBTs).

Analysing footage posted on social media of military equipment being moved by train, Janes has identified the deployment of at least a battalion tactical group of the 49th Combined Arms Army's 34th Motorised Brigade (Mountain) equipped with MT-LB APCs and 2S1 Gvozdika SPHs and, what are likely to be, a battalion-sized element of Buk-M2 believed to belong to the 90th Air Defence Brigade and of T-72 MBTs from the 58th Combined Arms Army's 42nd Motorised Division to railway stations in Crimea. All three units are not normally stationed in Crimea and do not often exercise on the peninsula.

The deployments are part of a wider increase in anomalous Russian military activity along the Ukrainian border, which began at the end of October. The deployments, which have included elements of the 1st Guards Tank Army moving to the city of Voronezh near the Ukrainian border, have involved units outside their usual areas of operation out of sync with Russia's normal summer and winter training cycles.

In addition to the confirmed deployments to areas near the Ukrainian border, Janes has also identified the anomalous activation of additional units deployed deeper in Russia. These include the 79th Rocket Artillery Brigade, the BM-30 Smerch multiple rocket launchers – which were identified leaving the town of Tver in northwest of Moscow on 16 November, and a T-72B3 MBT battalion likely belonging to the 90th Tank Division – which was seen loading onto trains in Ekaterinburg in Siberia on 16 November. It is not clear where these units are heading. However, considering other anomalous movements, their activation merits continued observation.

The Yelnya garrison in Smolensk, where much of the Central Military District (CMD) equipment deployed to Voronezh in the spring was moved to in October – instead of returning to Siberia – has also increased in size. Satellite imagery from 9 November showed an additional 70 vehicles parked in the vehicle stores visible through the cloud cover. A 16 November Center for Strategic and International Studies analysis of the imagery shows a 17% increase in troop accommodations at the camp.

A 15 November CNN report also states US officials have noted the presence of Russian Spetsnaz and GRU and SVR intelligence operatives ‘on the ground', likely meaning in Donbass itself.

Russia also appears to be moving naval assets into position. The Baltic Fleet Ropucha-class landing ship tanks (LSTs) Minsk and Korolev were also photographed heading south through the Strait of Dover on 15 November. This movement bears significant similarity to the spring build-up when four LSTs from the Baltic and Northern Fleets were deployed to the Black Sea.

Analysis
Russia is continuing to deploy additional forces to the Ukrainian border and Crimea. The build-up in the region includes elements of three armies: the 1st Guards Tank Army, 49th Combined Arms Army, and 58th Combined Arms Army, in addition to large remnants of the previous build-up, such as more than 500 CMD vehicles stationed in Smolensk and 291st Artillery Brigade artillery assets in Crimea, which did not return to their bases after spring.
 
The deployment of Baltic Fleet LSTs indicates Russia is once again attempting to bolster the Black Sea Fleet's amphibious assault capability or possibly allowing regular supply missions to Syria, which takes two LSTs, while deploying its entire amphibious force in another role.

 

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Russia has deployed elements of at least three units to Crimea since 12 November. They are equipped ...

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