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Russia accelerates movement of military hardware towards Ukraine, satellite images show

New satellite imagery obtained by CNN shows a large base containing Russian tanks, artillery and other armor near the Ukrainian border has been largely evacuated, with equipment apparently moved too close to the border in recent days. has gone.

The base is in Yelnya, southeast of the city of Smolensk and about 258 kilometers from the Ukrainian border. Large quantities of weapons were moved there in late 2021 – including some 700 tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and ballistic missile launchers.

Much of that instrument is now gone, according to radar satellite imagery obtained on February 6. Cloud cover had halted the site’s photographic imagery several days earlier. The images show the tracks of departing vehicles.

Stephen Wood, senior director of satellite imagery company Maxar, told CNN: “It looks to me like a fair amount of vehicles [tanks, self-propelled artillery and other support vehicles] Have departed from the Northeast Vehicle Park; Additional armored vehicles moved from the more central vehicle park.”

Konrad Muzyka, an expert tracking military movements with Rochan Consulting, says what happened in Yelnya is one of many “significant changes in the composition of the Russian army and their locations”.

He told CNN: “We’re entering a new phase of build-up, where we’re looking at pre-positioned units with additional personnel and this equipment probably being moved to staging areas.”

Social media videos shot over the past few days show some of the equipment on trains and roads much further south in the Bryansk region, which is close to Ukraine. Armor and vehicles are identified with similar units that were already stationed in Yelnya.

Thomas Bullock, an analyst at Janes, writes, “There are now a number of indicators suggesting that soldiers have begun deploying to further camps to reconnect with their prefabricated equipment.” “Video posted on social media indicates some soldiers from Siberia, whose equipment has already been moved to sites in Smolensk and Bryansk, are in the process of deployment.”

A US intelligence document dated December 3, 2021 included satellite imagery showing that the site at Yelnya was empty in June – but by November had been home to five battalion tactical groups, each comprising about 1,000 soldiers and support elements . Most of the equipment belongs to the 41st Combined Arms Forces, which is usually based in Russia’s Central Military District and is headquartered in Novosibirsk in Siberia.

Mujica says there are substantial Russian movements elsewhere. “We are seeing a huge influx of vehicles and personnel into Kursk,” he tweeted on Sunday. Kursk is about 100 kilometers from the Ukrainian border.

Philip Kerber of the Potomac Foundation in Washington, who has also studied Russian military movements in detail, told CNN: “Russia’s strongest offensive formation – the First Guards Tank Army, usually stationed in the Moscow region – is 400 kilometers south. and is rapidly gathering along the Khorsk-Kiev offensive route into the optimal area for an armored offensive.”

On Sunday, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told ABC News: “We believe there is a very distinct possibility that Vladimir Putin will order an attack on Ukraine. This can take many different forms. It may happen as soon as possible or it may just take a few weeks.”

Separate US officials told CNN over the weekend that Russian President Vladimir Putin has now assembled 70 percent of the military personnel and weapons he would need on Ukraine’s borders for a full-scale invasion of the country.

This includes increasing power in southern Belarus.

The Kremlin has repeatedly denied any plans for a military strike against Ukraine.

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