Russia could be manoeuvring itself into a position from which it could carry out an invasion of Ukraine from multiple fronts, including a possible strike close to the Ukrainian capital, Kiev.
According to The Interpreter, there has been a sharp increase in Russian troop movements in Belarus. Belarus borders Ukraine to the north, and the border crossing between the two countries is located less than 150 miles from Kiev.
Belarus and Russia share close relations. Russia maintains military bases in the country, and Russia recently announced plans to build an airbase in the west of Belarus.
A YouTube video, thought to have been taken today in the Belarusian city of Vitebsky, shows a large number of Russian troops and equipment. The city is located approximately eight hours due north of Ukraine.
A second YouTube video, shot on August 10, depicts another large armoured convoy in Novoshakhtinsk, by the Rostov region of Russia. This convoy is less than 20 miles from the Ukrainian border, and it is less than 150 miles to either of the separatist-held cities of Luhansk or Donetsk.
Simultaneously, a Russian aid convoy is set to enter Ukraine in the north east through the city of Kharkhiv, according to a document translated by The Interpreter. The convoy is said to contain humanitarian cargo for the east of Ukraine and it will fly under the signal of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) once it passes into Ukrainian territory.
However, the convoy has raised suspicions after it was assembled on Russian military bases. The ICRC has said that it has no information as to what is being stored in the convoy.
“At the moment it is not an International Red Cross convoy, inasmuch as we haven’t had sight of the material, we haven’t had certain information regarding the content, and the volume of aid that it contains,” ICRC spokesman Ewan Watson told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen warned on Monday that a Russian invasion of Ukraine was a “high probability.” Beyond the recent troop movements, Russia has an estimated 20,000 troops poised on the Ukrainian border, although it could be estimated at as much as 45,000 with the inclusion of Russian troops in Crimea.
According to Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Russian troops massing on the Ukrainian border were “capable of a wide spectrum of military operations.” The troops consisted of infantry, artillery, and air defenses. The forces are stationed closer to the Ukrainian border than they were during the spring.
Aside from troops, some Russian forces have started to paint peacekeeping emblems on military vehicles. Russian units painted with this insignia have previously been deployed in Georgia and the Transnistrian separatist zone of Moldova.
If Russia were to invade Ukraine, it is possible that it would be done under the guise of a peacekeeping intervention with the goal of creating corridors throughout eastern Ukraine. Russia could then use these corridors to continue transporting arms to the separatists.
In a worst case scenario, Russia could invade Ukraine from the east, the north east, the north, and even the south from Crimea. This multi-pronged attack could stretch Ukraine’s army, and overwhelm the Ukrainian forces.
Here’s a look at Ukraine’s “Anti-Terrorist Operation” as of today (according to Ukraine’s military):