17 September 2019
Tanks arrive by freight train Tuesday in a small Russian town near the border with Ukraine. Photo: Reuters
Tanks arrive by freight train Tuesday in a small Russian town near the border with Ukraine. Photo: Reuters

Russia masses heavy firepower near Ukraine border

Russia’s army is massing troops and hundreds of pieces of weaponry, including mobile rocket launchers, tanks and artillery, at a makeshift base near the border with Ukraine, Reuters reported.

Many of the vehicles have had their number plates and identifying marks removed, and many of the troops have removed the insignia off their uniforms.

They resemble some of the forces spotted in eastern Ukraine, which Kiev and its western allies allege are covert Russian detachments.

The scene at the base on the Kuzminsky firing range, about 50 kilometers from the border, offers some of the clearest evidence to date of what appears to be a Russian military build-up in the area.

Russia denies that its military is involved in the conflict in Ukraine’s east, where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting forces loyal to the pro-western government in Kiev.

Earlier this month, NATO military commander General Philip Breedlove said he believed the separatists were taking advantage of a ceasefire that came into force in February to rearm and prepare for a new offensive.

However, he gave no specifics.

Russia’s defense ministry said it had no immediate comment about the build-up.

Several soldiers said they had been sent to the base for simple military exercises, suggesting their presence was unconnected to the situation in Ukraine.

Asked by Reuters if large numbers of unmarked weaponry and troops without insignia at the border indicated that Russia planned to invade Ukraine, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said during a conference call with reporters: “I find the wording of this question, ‘if an invasion is being prepared’, inappropriate as such.”

The weapons being delivered there included Uragan multiple rocket launchers, tanks and self-propelled howitzers — all weapon types that have been used in the conflict in eastern Ukraine between Kiev’s forces and separatists.

The amount of military hardware at the base was about three times greater than in March this year, when Reuters journalists were previously in the area. At that time, only a few dozen pieces of equipment were in view.

– Contact us at [email protected]