Kyiv, 25 April 2014 – The situation in the areas bordering Russia remains tense, and there is a high risk of Russian military invasion. Nevertheless, according to the data available to the Information Resistance group, no major changes in the number of Russian troops have been observed in the last two days. This was reported by military expert Dmytro Tymchuk during a briefing at the Ukraine Crisis Media Center.
“As regards yesterday’s avalanche of messages about tanks at the border, we have counted two large convoys of APC’s totaling up to 200 pieces. In fact, they only cruise along the border, appearing in some localities. Messages have been flowing from these places making it look like we are being surrounded by Russia’s tank armadas. This is not quite so. It is too early to panic, and we should use good judgment in assessing the situation. We do not rule out that Russia may send its troops, but so far this hasn’t happened,” the military expert said.
According to him, Russia has stationed in the areas bordering Ukraine approximately 150-200 artillery pieces, 50,000 troops within a 200 km zone, up to 700 tanks, APC’s and tracked vehicles and 230 planes. That being said, the number of military equipment has remained practically unchanged over the last three weeks.
Mr. Tymchuk denied the statement made by Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu that the escalating situation in the southeast of Ukraine caused Russia to launch military drills in its southern and western military districts on 24 April. “Already a week ago, we reported that tactical forces were being formed which could be used to invade Ukraine from Russia’s side. The announcement that Russia’s Defense Ministry made yesterday was actually just a statement of fact. They linked something that had already existed to the events is Slovyansk and said it was their response to our counter-terrorism operation. This isn’t true. This was just a way of responding to the complaints made by Ukraine and the West. In other words, they just answered the question why they had been concentrating their troops. As a matter of fact, they had started doing it long before the counter-terrorism operation began,” Mr. Tymchuk said.
The expert also said that Ukrainian counter-terrorism unit “Alpha” did not sabotage the counter-terrorist operation in Slovyansk. “One should understand the format of the operation. In these circumstances, “Alpha” cannot be used the way many think it should. “Alpha” is used to clear buildings of terrorists and hostages. It is not meant for liberating the entire city. There was no sabotage. It’s just that there were no tasks for “Alpha” to perform,” he said.
Mr. Tymchuk confirmed that the counter-terrorism operation in Slovyansk is continuing. At the same time, military equipment has been used so far only for a limited range of tasks, such as blocking and containment of the enemy, due to a restriction imposed by the Ukrainian legislation on the use of the army in this type of operations. The main operation was carried out by the special units controlled by the Interior Ministry in line with the international practice.
Dmytro Tymchuk is the Director of the Center for Military and Political Research, coordinator of the Information Resistance Group and a military expert.