Russia is moving more tanks near the border with Ukraine, defense-intelligence firm Janes said, reinforcing Western concerns about reports of a buildup of Russian military forces close to its neighbor.
At least a battalion of T-80U main battle tanks were deployed to a railway station in the Voronezh region, according to social-media footage from Nov. 7, London-based Janes said in an analysis provided to Bloomberg News. The tanks appear headed for the Pogonovo training ground, the same one where a Russian military buildup in the spring sparked Western demands for a pullback, according to Janes.
Fighting has picked up at times in recent weeks between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country. Ukraine used a Turkish-made drone for the first time to attack a separatist howitzer in response to a strike that killed one soldier and wounded another on Oct. 26. Last week, Janes said it identified the deployment of tanks and self-propelled artillery from the same Russian division to the Bryansk and Kursk regions on Ukraine’s northern border on Oct. 28 and 29.
The U.S. is “closely” monitoring the unusual build-up of Russian military activity near Ukraine, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Friday. “Any escalatory or aggressive actions by Russia would be of great concern to the United States.”
Russia has said troop movements on its own territory are an internal matter and denied any aggressive intentions. The Ukrainian government has said Russian force levels haven’t changed substantially since tensions spiked in the spring. “There is some strengthening,” presidential spokesman Serhiy Nykyforov said Monday. “It is too early to make any conclusions about Russia’s aims.”
In the spring, the U.S. and its allies accused Russia of moving as many as 100,000 troops close to the border. Amid demands for a pullback, the Kremlin said it began to return the units to their bases deep inside Russia in April, easing concerns.
In contrast to the fairly open buildup in the spring, the recent Russian deployment is covert, often taking place at night and is by elite ground units, according to Janes. The moves appeared aimed less at intimidation than at producing an active threat, the firm said.
U.S. President Joe Biden dispatched CIA Director Bill Burns to Moscow last week to warn the Kremlin that Washington is carefully watching its troop deployment near the border with Ukraine, CNN reported, citing U.S. and Ukrainian officials. President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone with Burns about regional conflicts, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Monday.
Ceasefire violations have been increasing in war-ravaged eastern Ukraine, where persistent violence has continued since 2015 peace accords to end a conflict sparked by the Russian-backed separatists.
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