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Published in Stream:
Ukraine Live Day 387
Press by
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Report Details Extent Of Russian Military Involvement In Ukraine As NATO Chief Says Forces Continue To Arrive
5 years
Russian-Backed Fighters Attack Near Donetsk, Mariupol and Bakhmutka Highway Overnight
US To Send Ukraine $75 Million In New "Non Lethal" Aid, But What They're Sending Is Interesting

Reuters reports that Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO Secretary General, has told journalists that Russia is continuing to send troops and military hardware into Ukraine.

Asked at a news conference about a U.S. diplomat's remark that Russian tanks had crossed into Ukraine in recent days, he declined specific comment on that but said: "We ... still see Russian presence and strong support for the separatists in eastern Ukraine. We see the delivery of equipment, forces, training. And so Russia is still in eastern Ukraine.

"Therefore we call on Russia to withdraw all its forces from eastern Ukraine and to respect the Minsk agreement."

The Secretary General said that the current monitoring of the ceasefire was "by no means sufficient today," as the OSCE was not being granted the necessary access and information.  

Stoltenberg said he was concerned that weaponry which was not being monitored could be repositioned for future combat.

The US diplomat's remark in question was a statement yesterday by Victoria Nuland, Assistant Scretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs. 

Nuland told a U.S. congressional hearing that Russian tanks and artillery had crossed into eastern Ukraine in recent days in breach of a ceasefire deal agreed in Minsk on Feb. 12. 

This comes as Igor Sutyagin, a Russian military expert at the Royal United Services Institute in London, published a briefing paper on the deployment of Russian military forces in Ukraine.

Sutyagin has compiled information on specific military units deployed to Ukraine in three periods, the "reconnaissance teams" in earlier phase of the conflict, as separatist fighters fought for control of cities in the Donetsk region, the large-scale intervention by regular forces from August 11, and the current scale of force in February, 2015.

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Sutyagin argues that the scale and type of units deployed indicates that Russia is actually struggling to sustain the operation in Ukraine, with eight out of ten field armies contributing troops to the main offensive last summer and autumn. Troops have been sent from as far east as Vladivostok and even the 201st base in Tajikstan. There has been, he claims, over-reliance on units from Siberia, far from the border, suggesting insufficient materiel and manpower in the western districts.

The moves to press conscript soldiers into contract service also reflects a lack of available manpower. 

Sutyagin also details the continued deployment of troops after the ceasefire:

The Russian MoD kept sending reinforcements to the east of Ukraine even after the ceasefire was signed in Minsk on 13 February. Indeed, two days later detachments of the 2nd Guards were detected in combat near Mariupol, where they arrived as a fresh reserve to replace the 138th Motor-Rifle Brigade, which had suffered serious manpower losses over a three-week period.

Here Sutyagin makes an interesting point with regards to the deployment of Russian troops in small groups attached to other units, a policy which gave way, during the battle for Debaltsevo, to full-unit deployment:

 

At the same time, casualties have forced the Russian command, instead of using Battalion Tactical Groups originating from a single brigade or division, to establish ad hoc formations that combine detachments from different units into combined tactical groups. Those two facts combined prompted some observers to suggest there are no Russian regular units fighting as coherent formations in the combat zone – with only individual ‘volunteer’ servicemen fighting and the organised regular Russian military present in exclusively command roles and as specialist crews to operate the most sophisticated equipment. However, with a new round of fighting starting immediately after the ceasefire was signed, Russian units returned to prioritised forward locations, as the most capable strike force; rebel formations have in essence been used as cannon fodder. During the February fighting on the northern front, combined formations of Russian regulars have been detected on a number of occasions:

• On 1–2 February, a combined formation – consisting of the 8th Guards and 18th Guards Motor-Rifle brigades, 25th Spetsnaz Regiment, and elements of the 232nd MRL brigade – was involved in combat near Debaltseve

• At the same time, the 8th Guards Motor-Rifle Brigade deployed some of its personnel within a combined formation – of the 8th Guards Motor-Rifle Brigade and 5th Tank Brigade – to serve as infantry support to armoured forces near Gorlovka

• A combined formation of the 27th Guards Motor-Rifle Brigade and 217th Guards Airborne Regiment (98th Guards Airborne Division) moved to Logvinovo on 14 February when the combined formation of 136th Guards Motor-Rifle Brigade and 25th Spetsnaz Regiment fighting there to close the corridor to Debaltsevo had to be withdrawn after severe manpower losses. (The combined formation of the 27th Guards and 217th Guards Airborne was itself established around the core of the latter’s Battalion Tactical Group after it took heavy losses.)

• The 20th Guards Motor-Rifle Brigade’s tactical group had to be reformed into a combined formation with 18th Guards Motor-Rifle Brigade elements after 13 February; the 20th Guards elements were a substitute for the elements of the 8th Guards Motor-Rifle Brigade due to the latter’s substantial losses

• Other combined formations – of 19th Motor-Rifle Brigade with 10th Spetsnaz Brigade; of the 13th Guards Tank Regiment (4th Guards [Kantemirovskaya] Tank Division) with the 32nd Motor-Rifle brigade; and of the 104th Guards Air-Assault Regiment (76th Guards Air-Assault Division) with the ‘Kalmius’ rebel formation – were also detected in combat in the Northern Operational Area in February

• The 9th Motor-Rifle Brigade operated in a combined formation with elements of an unidentified unit in the Southern Operational Area.

Read the full report here.

-- Pierre Vaux