Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Russia posturing to escalate militarily in Ukraine following alleged attack on Crimea

 By Kathleen Weinberger and Franklin Holcomb

Russian President Vladimir Putin has positioned Russian forces rhetorically and militarily to stage a large-scale operation in Ukraine. In response to claims that Ukrainian military intelligence staged an attempted infiltration of Crimea 07-08 AUG, Putin stated that Russia is obligated to respond. Putin cited this incident and a failed assassination attempt in separatist-held Luhansk 07 AUG as evidence that Ukraine is unwilling to settle the conflict in Eastern Ukraine through peaceful negotiation. Russia previously positioned troops and military hardware on Ukraine’s northern and eastern border, as well as in Crimea. Putin may use this incident to justify military escalation in Ukraine as an ostensibly defensive operation.

Russia’s security service arrested Ukrainian security officials as they attempted to enter Crimea, which resulted in clashes on 07, 08 AUG.
  • Russia claimed that Ukrainian security forces attempted to enter Crimea on the night of 07 AUG with 20 improvised explosive devises and mines before being detained (link).
  • Russian security services stated that a Russian soldier was killed by Ukrainian fire on 07 AUG near the de-facto Ukraine-Crimea border and that Ukrainian infiltrators killed an FSB officer during clashes on 08 AUG. Russia reported that ten other Russians were injured in the clashes.(link - link - warning: link to .RU website)
  • Russian security forces claimed to have detained at least one member of Ukrainian intelligence as well as six “local agents” near the town of Armyansk. (warning: link to .RU website)

Russia has been framing this incident as an attack that demands a reaction, while Ukraine denies that the incident took place:
  • The State Council of Russian-occupied Crimea referred to these actions as a “declaration of war” (link)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that the purported attack on Crimea by Ukrainian military intelligence “will not go unanswered” (link).
  • Putin directly addressed “European and American counterparts” and stated that Ukraine was not interested in resolving the conflict through negotiation. (link)
  • Putin cited an earlier failed assassination attempt against the leader of the separatist Luhansk People’s Republic as further evidence of Ukraine’s unwillingness to resolve the conflict peacefully. (link)
  • The Ukrainian government repeatedly denied Russia’s claims and issued a warning that Russia is planning to use this to escalate militarily. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko described Putin’s claims as “cynical and insane.” (link - link - link)

Russia has escalated military activity in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine 07-10 AUG:
  • Deputy Chairman of the Meljis Crimean Tartar self-governing body warned on 07 AUG that Russia was moving military personnel and hardware into the northern Crimean towns of Armyansk and Dzhankoy. (link)
  • After the warning was issued, internet access in the north of Crimea was restricted. (link)
  • The leader of Russian proxy forces in separatist-held Donetsk ordered officials to not go on vacation and adhere to a strict curfew in response to heightened threat environment in Donbas. (link)
  • There has been a report of a large military convoy of Russian forces moving towards Debaltseve in Eastern Ukraine on 10 AUG. (link)

Russia has expanded its military presence to Ukraine’s south, east, and northern borders in recent months in an effort to draw out Ukrainian forces, possibly setting the stage for expanded operations.
  • On 04 MAY, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced the creation of three new divisions in Russia’s Western and Southern Military Districts. (warning: link to .RU site)
    • The 150th division near Rostov, which borders Ukraine to the East, will consist of 10,000 soldiers.
    • Two other divisions were created in Smolensk, on the border with Belarus, and Voronezh, on the border with Ukraine.
  • Russia moved two motor rifle brigades to Ukraine’s northern border in JUN 2016, one to Klintsy in the Bryansk region, 30 km from the Ukrainian border, one to Valuyki in the Belgorod region, 20km from Ukraine. (link)

Russia may use this to legitimize escalating militarily in Ukraine while framing the escalation as a defensive measure.

More information and analysis to follow.