SHAPE, BELGIUM - NATO is providing a series of images (see below) to the public in order to inform debate regarding recent events in the border region of Russia and Ukraine.
The imagery shows that on 30 May in Rostov-na-Donu, a Russian unit was deployed, but no tanks were present at the time the image was taken.
Imagery from the 6th of June shows the Russian unit departing, which we believe was part of a Russian announcement to pull troops back from the border region. In the context of this overall withdrawal, 8 main battle tanks are shown to have arrived.
On the 11th of June, 10 main battle tanks can be seen at the site. 3 of these are parked, 4 are in the training area, and 3 are loaded heavy equipment transport trucks that are normally used to move tanks, likely indicating imminent movement by road.
On the 12th of June, Ukrainian officials report that 3 main battle tanks and several armoured vehicles crossed the border at the Dovzhanskyy border crossing, which was under the control of pro-Russian elements of the so-called "People’s Republic of Luhansk.” Sightings of these tanks were later reported in open sources in Snizhne and then Makiivka, near Donetsk. The tanks do not bear markings or camouflage paint like those used by the Ukrainian military. In fact, they do not have markings at all, which is reminiscent of tactics used by Russian elements that were involved in destabilising Crimea.
- Map of referenced areas
These images raise significant questions concerning Russia’s role in facilitating instability in eastern Ukraine and its involvement in the movement of military equipment from Russian territory into Ukraine. Russian officials have been repeatedly misleading and evasive regarding their roles in both Crimea and eastern Ukraine. It is important to bring relevant facts to light in an effort to ensure Russia remains publicly accountable for its actions.
If these latest reports are confirmed, this would mark a grave escalation of the crisis in eastern Ukraine in violation of Russia’s Geneva commitments.
Yesterday the NATO Secretary General expressed his concern over these reports and again urged Russia to complete the withdrawal of its military forces on the border with Ukraine, to stop the flow of weapons and fighters across the border, and to exercise its influence among armed separatists to lay down their weapons and renounce violence. He called on the Russian Federation to meet its Geneva commitments and cooperate with the government of Ukraine as it implements its plans for promoting peace, unity and reform.
The following images are of a deployment site near Rostov-na-Donu, in southwest Russia.
Graphic 1 - The image on the left, dated May 30, 2014 shows the deployment of a Russian military unit. This unit was deployed to this location as part of Russia’s build-up of forces along its border with Ukraine. This location is approximately 75 Kilometres (KM), from the Dovzhanskyy, Ukraine border crossing. By road, this is 90 KM to the Ukraine border. Please note there are NO Main Battle Tanks (MBT) on this image. The middle image, dated June 6, 2014, shows the departure of the Russian military unit. However, it shows the arrival of 8 Main Battle Tanks, which were not present on the May 30, 2014 image. The image on the right, dated June 11, 2014, indicates overall, there are 10 Main Battle Tanks in the area (3 parked, 4 in training area, and 3 on low loaders). The next graphic will provide more detail.
Graphic 2 - Taking a more detailed look at this third image dated June 11, 2014, we can now see there are actually 10 Russian Main Battle Tanks in this area. (Top left inset) Three are in the parking area. (Two right insets) Four are in the training areas. (Bottom left inset) Three Main Battle Tanks loaded onto Low Loaders, also referred to as Heavy Equipment Transporters. This is the primary method of moving Main Battle Tanks over road networks.
Graphic 3 - Video posted on the internet June 11, 2014, has shown 2 T-64 tanks driving through Makiivka, Ukraine at the intersection of Sverdlova St and Donbasu Ave. These tanks are accompanied by a vehicle flying the Russian flag. Please note, none of these vehicles have markings. This is consistent with Russian vehicles and equipment that were deployed to Crimea.
Graphic 4 - The second image, also taken from a video posted on the internet June 11, 2014, shows a lone T-64 driving through Snizhne, Ukraine. Please note this tank also has no markings on it.
Graphic 5 - These final unclassified images depict a Ukrainian T-64 with the lone T-64 driving through Snizhne, Ukraine. Please note the difference in the paint schemes.
According to Open Source reporting, Russia still has approximately 2,000 T-64 Main Battle Tanks which it has phased out of service and were slated for destruction. It is highly likely a large number of tanks are still operational.
Story by SHAPE Public Affairs Office