The U.S. experts have shown the Russian military equipment that was transferred to occupied Crimea amid the build-up from February through April 2021.
In particular, units from the 76th Air Assault Division descended on the Angarsky training area on the southeastern outskirts of Simferopol in Crimea by rail from Pskov, supposedly for exercises, as reported by the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab.
The imagery of the Angarsky training area taken on April 21, 2021, showed that some of the tents on the western part of the training area had packed up and moved. It was unclear where they were relocated. Trains moving to Simferopol carried T-72B3 main battle tanks, BMD and BTR-D airborne armored vehicles, Nona self-propelled 120mm mortars, D-30 122mm howitzers, fuel trucks, and recovery vehicles, among other things.
Read alsoRussia's invasion from Crimea still possible despite announced pullback – chief border guardThe experts claim the Lake Donuzlav airbase near Mirnyi, on the western coast of Crimea, has long laid virtually abandoned and in disrepair. However, SAR imagery from April 15, provided by Capella Space, revealed that the base is back in use with Russian military helicopters, such as Mi-8 transport helicopters and Mi-28 attack helicopters.
The DFRLab also reported on the scale of the Opuk training area, which turned out to be the largest collection of troops in the recent build-up.
SAR imagery of the area showed the majority of the equipment proved to be a wide variety of tanks, armored vehicles, artillery, and support vehicles, mainly from the 58th Combined Arms Army.
According to the experts, even if Russia follows through fully on its promises, the peninsula will still be increasingly militarized with the planned permanent deployment of the 56th Air Assault Brigade to Feodosia, where the brigade will be reformed into a regiment.
Read alsoU.S. defense intelligence chief comments on Russia's military build-up near UkraineRussian troops massing along Ukraine's borders
- On March 30, 2021, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Colonel-General Ruslan Khomchak said Russia had deployed 28 battalion tactical groups along the state border of Ukraine and in the temporarily occupied territories. It is also said to be planning to bring up to 25 battalion tactical groups under the guise of preparing for military drills. Such actions pose a threat to Ukraine's military security.
- According to the Armed Forces of Ukraine, enemy troops are reinforcing their advanced units with reconnaissance teams and sniper pairs, involving Russian army instructors in personnel training. Russia-led forces' artillery units are reportedly on full alert in certain districts, including villages and towns in occupied Ukrainian territory.
- The U.S. European Command raised its alert status to the highest level after fighting had resumed between Russia-led forces and Ukrainian troops in Donetsk region.
- The U.S. Department of Defense said it was "aware of Russian troop movements" on Ukraine's borders and was concerned about recent escalations of Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine.
- The United States, finding reports of Russian military movements on Ukraine's border credible, asked Moscow to explain the "provocations" and is ready to engage on the situation.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Moscow was trying to put pressure on Kyiv by amassing its military forces along the Russian-Ukrainian border.
- On April 8, 2021, Khomchak assured the situation was under control, and the Ukrainian military was ready to respond to the escalation both in the temporarily occupied territory of Luhansk and Donetsk regions and along the entire Ukrainian-Russian border.
- On April 22, 2021, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said his country would begin the withdrawal of troops, which had taken part in military exercises in occupied Crimea and near the borders of Ukraine, to their permanent bases in the Southern and Western Military Districts.