On April 13th, it appeared that Russia had deployed its 559th Fighter Bomber Aviation Regiment, equipped with SU-34 jets deployed to the Black Sea region.
#Ukraine 🇺🇦 | As I said yesterday, the moment we see fixed wing assets being redeployed, we've got a serious issue.
Well it seems that time has come, the 559th Fighter Bomber Aviation Regiment equipped with SU-34s have been deployed to the Black Sea region.
Very concerning. https://t.co/LfcFpggLlj
— Sierra Alpha (@skywatcherintel) April 13, 2021
This raises concerns of an escalation, or at least justification for Kiev to cry foul.
The Russian side claims that the deployment is part of an exercise that was planned a while ago.
“The crews of the operational-tactical aviation of the Air Force and Air Defense Association of the Southern Military District redeployed to operational airfields to carry out joint missions with the naval aviation of the Black Sea Fleet. The activities were carried out during the control check during the winter training period.
In addition, the pilots of the two formations will carry out the tasks of escorting naval strike groups and acting as part of reconnaissance strike complexes while ensuring security in the Black Sea.
The control check of the Southern Military District troops for the winter period is carried out according to the approved troop training plan for 2021. It involves the troops of all associations of the district, including the Black Sea Fleet and the Caspian Flotilla. The commissions of higher military command and control bodies also check the staffing level and supply of troops, their ability to meet the standards established by the requirements of combat and operational training.”
More Russian ground forces are also en route to the areas near Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.
The elements of the 35th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Brigade from Aleysk (central Russia) arrived in Voronezh.https://t.co/zieCLHEpCo
— Status-6 (@Archer83Able) April 14, 2021
A column of tankers, trucks and BTR-82AMs at the road between Atamanskaya and Pavlovskaya, Krasnodar Krai.
— Status-6 (@Archer83Able) April 14, 2021
Meanwhile, Kiev is attempting to further stir the pot.
Ukraine’s defense minister said that Russia is potentially preparing Crimea for storing nuclear weapons and warned that Moscow could attack Ukraine to ensure water supplies for the annexed peninsula.
Andrii Taran, speaking to the European Parliament’s defense sub-committee in Brussels, also said he could not rule out that Russian forces in Crimea could “undertake substantive military provocations” in 2021.
The director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) William Burns told the US Senate on April 14th that Russia has amassed sufficient military forces and equipment on the border of Ukraine to allow a Russian incursion into the country.
The CIA director, who served as a former ambassador to Russia, said that experience taught him “not to underestimate the ways in which President [Vladimir] Putin and the Russian leadership can throw its weight around”.
“The Russian military build-up in Crimea and alongside the border of the Donbass is a serious concern,” Burns told the Senate Intelligence Committee.
It could be “signalling a way to intimidate the Ukrainian leadership, signalling to the United States – but also that build-up has reached a point that it could provide the basis for limited military incursions [into Ukraine] as well. It is something that not only the United States but also our allies have to take very seriously.”
On Moscow’s side, Russian Deputy Foreign Ministry Sergei Ryabkov was cited by Russian news agencies on Tuesday as calling the deployment of U.S. warships in the Black Sea a provocation designed to test Russia’s nerves.
“There is absolutely nothing for American ships to be doing near our shores,” Ryabkov said, warning there was a very high risk of unspecified incidents if U.S. military hardware were to be positioned in the Black Sea.
“We warn the United States that it will be better for them to stay far away from Crimea and our Black Sea coast,” Ryabkov was quoted as saying. “It will be for their own good.”
The Turkish Foreign Ministry said that Washington had informed Ankara that two U.S. warships would pass through Turkish waters this week to be deployed in the Black Sea. The deployment would come amid a significant escalation of the conflict in eastern Ukraine between Russian-backed separatists and Ukraine’s forces, which have U.S. and European support.
This was denied by Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.
And, surely enough, Turkish media reported that the deployment had been “canceled”.
As such, the entire situation is in a state of chaos. Reports of various preparations are commonplace, and the US appears to be attempting to avoid an escalation, but Kiev is dead set on attempting to get Washington in a situation in which the tail wags the dog.
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