Thursday, August 11, 2016

Military Escalation by Russia in Crimea Against Ukraine

Preparations for conventional conflict between Russia and Ukraine are accelerating and the likelihood of open war is increasing rapidly. Russia has prepositioned military forces along all of its common borders with Ukraine: to the north in Bryansk district, to the east near Rostov, to the south in Crimea, and to the west in separatist-controlled Moldovan territory. Russian President Vladimir Putin has escalated hostilities after claiming that Ukrainian forces entered Crimea on 07 AUG. On 11 AUG, he mobilized additional forces in the separatist republics and to the south in Crimea. In response, Ukraine is beginning to redeploy forces to adjust to Russia’s deployments, which may leave Ukrainian forces engaged in combat with Russian proxy forces in Donbas without access to adequate support and vulnerable to offensive operations. Russia has not yet articulated any clear political objectives or demands, making it impossible to determine on what negotiated basis the looming conflict might be resolved. Putin may be seeking to trigger a political crisis in Kyiv designed to topple Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. The situation for now, however, is moving clearly in the direction of open conflict between Ukrainian and Russian forces in Donbas or elsewhere in Ukraine.

Russia began rapidly moving forces into Crimea and the Black Sea on 11 AUG:
  • The Ukrainian Armed forces claimed that Russian troops stationed along the de-facto Ukraine-Crimea border have been reinforced by additional men and vehicles and have begun digging trenches. 
  • There have been reports of Russian convoys moving through Kerch at the crossing point between Russian and Crimea, in Krasnodar, and moving north through Krymsk towards Crimea. 
  • Bastion-P coastal defense systems were spotted heading towards Crimea from Russia.
  • Russia announced that the Black Sea Fleet will hold drills in the Black Sea from 11-13 AUG (warning: link to .RU site).
  • Russian naval and air units have been reported entering the Black Sea.
  • Russia continued efforts to disrupt internet access in northern Crimea.
Russia has been engaged in a steady buildup around Ukraine:
  • Russia escalated its military buildup on Ukraine’s northern, eastern, and southern borders in August.
  • The Moldovan Foreign Ministry strongly condemned aggressive military exercises held on Ukraine’s western border with Russian regular forces and separatist troops in the pro-Russia separatist region of Transnistria on 08 AUG. (LINK: link to .md site.
Ukraine took steps to adjust to Russia’s redeployments as the international community examines the sides’ competing claims on 11 AUG:
  • Ukrainian troops are being deployed to the de-facto Crimean border and are on high alert.
  • Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is increasing the readiness of forces in Donbas and on the de-facto border with Crimea.
  • Ukrainian Naval Infantry and coastal artillery systems began live fire drills.
  • The UN Security Council is hosting an emergency meeting on Crimea.
  •  U.S. and EU officials noted the lack of independent verification of Russia’s claims about the alleged 07-08 AUG infiltration.
Russia’s proxies in eastern Ukraine escalated rhetoric and offensive operations on 11 AUG in what may be an attempt to exploit Ukraine’s military focus on other fronts.
  • Leader of the pro-Russia Donetsk People’s Republic Alexander Zakharchenko announced that the “terrorist state” of Ukraine is preparing an offensive against separatist forces in Donbas. (warning: link site)
  • Separatist forces began to rapidly increase the intensity of their shelling of Ukrainian positions during the night of the AUG 11 near the key port city of Mariupol according to unconfirmed local sources.  (link, link, link)
  • Ukrainian intelligence reported that Russian paratroopers from the 331st parachute regiment rotated into frontline positions in Donetsk as Russia deployed additional artillery systems in Donbas.
Read ISW’s analysis of the situation as of 10 AUG here.