Satellite images show a new phase of Russian military readiness.
Satellite imagery collected this weekend shows an apparent shift in Russia’s military deployment around Ukraine. In contrast to the large-scale deployments visible in imagery over recent weeks, some smaller deployments are now visible. Several units or troops have been deployed outside of bases or training grounds, with some positioned along tree lines, according to an analysis by Maxar Technologies, who released the imagery.
Russian units are also continuing to move closer to the border with Ukraine. Videos shared on social media in recent days showed military vehicles being moved. One video posted on TikTok captured a Russian military deployment less than five miles from the Ukrainian border.
Most of these locations are in the Belgorod area in western Russia, 25 miles from the border, which has recently seen an increase in military activity. In addition to the movement of vehicles, a new helicopter landing site was established over the last two weeks.
The Visual Investigations team at The Times, as well as outside researchers, have been tracking military activity in the region. However, the area has been cloudy for days, making it difficult to collect traditional satellite imagery. But there were few clouds around Belgorod on Sunday. New imagery revealed fresh tracks in the snow, leading analysts who pored over the images to focus on small deployment sites near the tree line.
The new findings come after U.S. intelligence officials claimed that 40 to 50 percent of the more than 150,000 Russian forces surrounding Ukraine have moved out of staging and into combat formation.
Experts who have been watching Russia’s recent military movements have paid special attention to the Belgorod region. Rochan Consulting, which tracks Russian deployments, stated in its Feb. 19 newsletter that “if Russia decides to attack, the Belgorod-Valuyki line will be one of the major staging areas for operations against Ukraine.”
The Maxar analysis noted that most of the combat units and equipment at Soloti, a military garrison outside the city of Valuyki, have left and that “extensive vehicle tracks and some convoys of armored equipment” have been seen in the area.