NATO: satellite images show Russian military buildup on Ukraine border, Russia denies
By End the Lie
Satellite imagery released by NATO show a significant Russian military buildup across the border with Ukraine, according to NATO officials, but Russian officials say the images are actually from August of last year.
This is the latest in a series of accusations leveled by NATO and the U.S. The West has repeatedly accused the Russian military of building up forces near the Ukraine-Russia border.
NATO has also said that the Russian military could swiftly carry out an incursion in Ukraine, an accusation that they now support with satellite imagery.
The latest images, released Thursday, show what the Guardian called “a powerful concentration of fighter planes, helicopters, artillery, infantry and special forces which officials say could be ready to move with just 12 hours notice.”
While Russian officials have maintained that the troop movements are not unusual, the pictures appear to show hundreds of tanks and armored vehicles, jets and more in what NATO says are around 100 staging areas.
These staging areas were almost entirely empty in February, according to NATO, but the images taken in the past two weeks show a massive buildup that leaves troops capable of moving within 12 hours of receiving an order.
“I would assess that this is a force that is very capable at high readiness, and…is close to routes and line of communications and has the resources to move into Ukraine if it was ordered to do so … It’s parked, it’s stopped. But it can move very quickly,” said Brig. Gary Deakin, the UK army officer who heads up NATO’s crisis-operations center, according to The Wall Street Journal.
“Threat is capability and intent. … Undoubtedly, there is capability here,” Deakin said. “We are unsure of the Russian intent.”
NATO officials have said the images show that some 40,000 troops have been deployed, according to Reuters.
“They have all the capabilities: air, special forces, artillery. They have everything,” Deakin said.
NATO saw no direct threat from Russia at this time, according to Deakin.
Officials state that the military buildup began in early March after Russian forces entered Crimea.
While the Russian explanation has consistently been focused on military exercises, NATO officers say there is no evidence of exercises taking place.
“Potentially, they could be used for exercising … [But] it’s quite unusual to have so much stuff there,” Deakin said.
Still, Russian officials flatly deny the veracity of the images. A senior official at the Russian General Staff reportedly maintained that the images are actually from last summer.
“The photos distributed by NATO show units of the Russian Southern military district, which were conducting various exercises last summer, including near the Ukrainian border,” the official said on Thursday, according to official Russian news agency RIA-Novosti.
Russian officials also accused NATO of using the Ukraine crisis to rally support for the treaty organization.
“The constant accusations against us by the secretary general convince us that the alliance is trying to use the crisis in Ukraine to rally its ranks in the face of an imaginary external threat to NATO members and to strengthen demand for the alliance … in the 21st century,” a Russian foreign ministry statement said, according to Channel 4.
The photographs were taken between March 22 and April 2, according to commercial provider DigitalGlobe.
Sky News notes that the content of the photographs “has not yet been independently verified.”
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