Ukrainian tanks and armored vehicles have been stationed en masse around the Donetsk region city of Slavyansk, satellite images leaked to media reveal. A Russian defense source says that artillery and rocket systems have also been deployed to the area.
RIA Novosti on Saturday published satellite images showing the buildup of troops near the eastern Ukrainian anti-government stronghold of Slavyansk. The photos, which are said to have been taken during the latest stage of the so-called “anti-terrorist operation” ordered by Kiev, are dated April 24-25.
The images appear to show part of military hardware used for the current Ukrainian troops’ objective of “isolating” Slavyansk.
This photo says that a group of 21 APCs are visible at the time of observation (center). It shows the northern outskirts of Slavyansk where an animal feed stuff factory is located (lower center).
Another group of 22 APCs is said to have been spotted 4 kilometers to the west of Slavyansk at the territory of a dairy farm. Ten tanks and 11 BMDs (airborne combat vehicles) are visible in another segment of the farm’s territory pictured above.
Groups of APCs can also be seen amassed on the western outskirts of Slavyansk.
A Russian Defense Ministry source commenting on the photos to RIA Novosti said that they show only a fraction of the force encircling the city.
According to the source, 160 tanks, 230 APCs and BMDs, and at least 150 artillery and rocket systems, including “Grad” and “Smerch” multiple rocket launchers, have been deployed to the area. A total of 15,000 troops are positioned near Slavyansk, he said.
The size of the force is “incommensurable” to that of the city’s self-defense, the source said, adding that it would be enough “to raze the city to the ground with all its residents.”
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu on Thursday said the large buildup of Ukraine troops, as well as war games and additional deployments of armed forces to the NATO states in the region have “forced” Russia to respond with military drills of its own.
“The order to use force against civilians has already been given, and if this military machine is not stopped, the amount of casualties will only grow,” Shoigu said during an official meeting in Moscow.
Self-defense activists believe that Russia’s move has dissuaded the coup-imposed Kiev authorities from storming Slavyansk, with troops only raiding checkpoints on the outskirts of the city and then retreating. However, Ukrainian acting defense minister, Mikhail Koval, on Saturday asserted that the military operation continues as planned “although its pace is not high.”
Speaking to journalists on the activity of the Russian troops on the border with Ukraine, Koval also contradicted earlier claims of border violations coming from Kiev and Washington. The Russian aircraft spotted flying along the Ukrainian border were transport airplanes, not fighter jets, and they never crossed the borderline, he said. Also, the closest distance that the Russian troops came to the Ukrainian border was 2-3 kilometers, he revealed.
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