Open-source intelligence team says Russia has deployed paratroopers to Ukrainian border
Russia has begun to deploy paratroopers closer to the Russian-Ukrainian border, according to a Jan. 25 post on the Telegram channel of independent Russian open-source intelligence group Conflict Intelligence Team, or CIT.
Paratroops, well-trained and well-equipped, are most often used as shock troops, spearheading a military attack.
CIT said footage of paratroopers’ military hardware being transported by rail appeared on the TikTok social networking service on Jan. 24.
According to captions to the video, it was shot in Russia’s Bryansk Oblast, which borders Ukraine and Belarus.
Military expert Rob Lee tweeted on Jan. 25 that the railway train was carrying BMD-4M airborne armored vehicles and BTR-MDM Rakushka amphibious armored personnel carriers.
“In total, the railway train is carrying 31 BMD-4Ms and eight BTR-MDMs, which corresponds to one battalion,” CIT said.
“In addition, the train includes five passenger cars, which may carry over 250 people. We’ve also seen eight shortened two-axle KAMAZ-43501 trucks on the platforms, which are typical for VDV (Russia’s Airborne Forces).”
In other footage, reportedly shot near the Polish-Belarusian border, CIT experts spotted the same type of KAMAZ trucks. According to the Russian Railways database, the railway train was moving from the Tekstilny station in Russia’s Ivanovo region, just next to the permanent base of the 217th Guards Paratrooper Regiment of the 98th Airborne Division.
That same regiment was recently sent to Kazakhstan as part of a contingent of troops dispatched by the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).
“This is the first confirmed footage of paratroopers moving closer to the border with Ukraine,” CIT said.
On Jan. 21, a railway train with Russian military equipment and personnel arrived at the Brest-Yuzhny railway station in Belarus.
Belarus’s Defense Ministry claimed these forces were part of unscheduled exercises meant to “test the Union State’s response forces.”
“Union State” refers to the current loose union between Belarus and Russia.
The unscheduled exercises, dubbed “Union Resolve 2022 Russia-Belarus joint drills,” are taking place amid Russia’s military buildup near the borders of Ukraine and a threat of invasion into Ukrainian territory.
Russia has been massing troops at the Russian-Ukrainian border since late October.
More than 127,000 Russian troops and offensive weapons have been deployed near Ukrainian borders and in the temporarily occupied territories, according to the latest intelligence estimate from the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine provided to CNN this week.
International media have speculated that Russia may invade Ukraine in early 2022, in an operation that could involve up to 175,000 Russian soldiers.
Both U.S. and European officials have expressed concern over the situation. U.S. President Joe Biden in December declared that the White House was working out “the most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives to make it very, very difficult for (Russian President Vladimir) Putin to go ahead and do what people are worried he may do.”
The proposed measures include cutting Russia off from the SWIFT international banking system, personal sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin and his inner circle, and a ban on U.S. dollar transactions with Russia.
On Jan. 14, the U.K.-based Guardian newspaper and the U.S.-based CNN news channel reported that Russia had positioned covert operatives in Ukraine to carry out a “false flag” operation to use as a pretext for a Russian attack.
While Russia has denied plans to invade, it has also refused to provide assurances that it would not do so, instead demanding that it be provided with “security guarantees” by the United States and NATO.
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