Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 21.12.2018
“We now consider the Russian Federation’s actions as a deliberate build-up of the armed forces on our Ukrainian border, as a prerequisite for a full-scale Russian invasion of our land.” This is the assessment of the President of Ukraine, 26 days after the Russian Federation’s act of war against the Ukrainian Navy in the Black Sea.
The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation are preparing for an offensive against Ukraine. Armour, artillery, transport, equipment and troops are being forward-deployed to Russian-occupied Ukrainian Crimea, to the Sea of Azov, to Russian-occupied Ukrainian Donbas, to Rostov region in the Russian Federation, and to Voronezh region in the Russian Federation.
Military equipment is on the move in the north of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, which is illegally occupied by the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. Convoys of military trucks, armoured personnel carriers and heavy artillery has been seen moving towards Armyansk in at least two columns. From there, they were seen moving towards railroad tracks near the administrative boundary between Crimea (Russian-occupied) and Kherson (free Ukraine).
The Russians are staging forces suitable for an offensive in Rostov region, Russian Federation, which is adjacent to Luhansk region, Ukraine. The southern part of Luhansk region is illegally occupied by the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. The President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, wrote in a tweet: “Satellite intelligence data shows the placement of Russian tanks 18 kilometres from the Ukrainian border. Yes, we see that in only one sector the number of tanks since mid-September has increased almost threefold - from 92 to 250 machines.” The place he is writing about is Kamensk-Shakhtinsky, a city only 60 kilometres from the battlefront along the Siverskyi Donets river north-east of Russian-occupied Luhansk city (on photo).
“The army groups of the Russian Federation along the Ukrainian border, in the temporarily occupied territories of Donbas and Crimea consist of 28 battalion tactical groups, over 1,120 tanks, 2,600 armored vehicles, 1,230 artillery systems and 442 multiple-launch rocket systems, and six operational tactical missile systems," Poroshenko said. President Poroshenko was visiting the 72nd Mechanized Brigade, on deployment with the Joint Forces Operation on the Russian Federation’s invasion-of-Ukraine battlefront in Donbas.
The one-month war state in ten regions of Ukraine is justified by the forward-staging of Russian troops capable of an offensive, and not only because of Russian aggression against the Ukrainian Navy on March 23. Ukraine has used this opportunity to strengthen its defence capabilities.
The Russian Federation’s attack on the Ukrainian Navy on November 25 is part of a trend of escalation that stepped up since late August. President Poroshenko said in a statement on December 20: “Russia has stepped up its military presence along the entire border with Ukraine – from Belarus to Crimea, the Sea of Azov, Black Sea and Transnistria. The number of Russian troops, tanks, armored vehicles, salvo-fire systems has been increased, operational tactical rocket systems have appeared.”
On December 20, counter-intelligence units of the Security Service of Ukraine arrested three sabotage & reconnaissance groups deployed by the Russian Federation’s military intelligence in eastern Ukraine. This move should be considered in light of the prisoners of war that are being held in Moscow: the Ukrainian Navy sailors captured when in the Russian attack of November 25.
Perhaps Russian GRU officers who are POWs in Ukraine can be exchanged for Ukrainian Navy sailors who are POWs in the Russian Federation. Perhaps Ukrainian preparations under the current war state legal mechanism will be sufficient to deter the Russians. But the fact remains that the Russian Federation is preparing for a military offensive against Ukraine. The United States and the United Kingdom are in political disarray because of the declining fortunes of Trump and of Brexit, respectively. France and Germany are politically weak due to the insidious influence of Russia-appeasement factions withing their governments. Putin has good reason to believe that he can expand his invasion of Ukraine beyond Crimea and Donbas and not face a robust and unified response from Western democracies.
The Russian Federation is prepared to launch a military offensive against Ukraine. If the West does not show strength, defend its values, and come to the defence of Ukraine, Putin will attack.