A Ukrainian pro-government militia has released drone footage showcasing the creation and expansion of a Russian military forward operating base (FOB) along a crucial front line in eastern Ukraine, Pierre Vaux reports for The Daily Beast.
The footage compiled by the Ukrainian volunteer militia Dnipro-1 was filmed during two separate drone flights over the region over a two week time.
At the time of the second drone flight on June 4, the FOB housed a minimum of nine T-72 tanks, a communications vehicle, an anti-tank gun, and a parade square in the center of the camp.
Aside from the continued political implications of a Russian military camp in eastern Ukraine, the FOB is strategically located close to the major Donetsk-Mariupol highway that is currently controlled by the Ukrainian government.
The highway links Mariupol, the key port city of Donetsk province, to government-held regions in the surrounding area.
The presence of the FOB could allow the Russian-backed Ukrainian separatists to seize the highway during any future assault on Mariupol, which would limit the ability of the Ukrainian government to come to the city’s defences.
“What’s significant about where this Russian FOB is located is that it’s sandwiched between (Ukrainian-held Volnovakha) and (separatist-held) Telmanovo, and would therefore play a lead role in any forthcoming Russian offensive on Mariupol,” TDB notes. “Reinforcements from this FOB would allow separatists to mount a pincer manoeuvre to cut Ukrainian forces in Mariupol off from support from the north.”
In the beginning of June, separatists launched a major multi-front escalation. The majority of the shelling hit the towns of Marinka and Krasnogorovka to the west of Donetsk.
However, one of the most ominous targets of the separatist offensive was the targeting of Ukrainian troops in Beryozovoye along the Donetsk-Mariupol highway, as well as separatist incursions further south towards Mariupol.
Mariupol is a strategic port and steel-producing city on the Sea of Azov. In January, a separatist leader took responsibility for rocket attacks on the city that left 20 people dead. Russia would need to capture Mariupol if it wanted to ultimately create a land-bridge to Crimea.
You can view the Dnipro-1 footage here: