In the framework of the “Caucasus-2016” Russian nationwide military exercises, 41,000 servicemen were concentrated near the borders of Ukraine. Training involved more than 10,000 units of vehicles, 60 ships, 400 aircraft and helicopters. Ukraine’s intelligence says Russia’s combined services formation close to the state border could be used against Ukraine in case the Russian leadership decides so.
Kyiv, September 5, 2016. Russian strategic decision-type exercises “Caucasus-2016” in the south-west direction undermine regional security and pose a direct military threat to Ukraine. This was stated by Vadym Skybytskyi, representative of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine at a press briefing held at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. “It is possible that this Russia’s combined services formation close to the state border of Ukraine, on the temporarily occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, as well as in annexed Crimea, will be used against our country in case the Russian leadership makes a decision. The fact that Russian troops stay on military grounds after sudden inspections officially completed, proves this,” noted the representative of intelligence. He added that similar developments were observed during the armed aggression of Russia against Georgia in 2008, which was preceded by military training “Caucasus-2008”.
Vadym Skybytskyi said that the real extent of training is much more than officially declared. Officially, Russia informed that about 12,500 servicemen, 90 tanks, about 300 combat vehicles, 20 helicopters and 15 warships participated in the maneuvers. According to the Chief Intelligence Directorate, under the guise of a sudden check on combat readiness of the Russian Armed Forces, held on August 25-31, and was, in fact, the initial phase of “Caucasus-2016”, Russia concentrated about 100,000 servicemen in the south-west direction, including 11,000 – from other districts of Russia. Of these, about 41,000 servicemen concentrated near the borders of Ukraine. The training involved more than 10,000 units of combat and other vehicles, 60 ships and 400 aircraft and helicopters. More than 40 aircraft from the tactical aviation of Western Command, the Northern Fleet and Russian Air and Space Forces were relocated to the operational airfields near the borders of Ukraine and in the occupied Crimea. “Thus, including Southern Command aviation, about 100 combat aircraft are concentrated only at forward airfields,” reported Vadym Skybytskyi.
The intelligence representative noted that among the units involved in the training are those involved in fighting in Luhansk and Donetsk regions. “The Battalion Tactical Group of the 6th separate tank brigade (Mulino) of the 1st Tank Army of the Western military district was redeployed to the training area near Molkino (Krasnodar Territory). Its units took part in fighting in the east of Ukraine in 2015. Besides, units of the Airborne Troops of the Russian Federation Armed Forces of the 76th (Pskov) and 56th separate brigades (Kamyshin, Volgograd region) were additionally redeployed to the territory of occupied Crimea by military transport aircraft. They also have experience in fighting in our country – Vadym Skybytskyi gave examples. “I would like to note that these forces are commanded by generals and officers directly involved in fighting in Ukraine. Among them are Hurulyov, Kuzovlyov, Nikiforov and others,” he added.
The intelligence representative also informed that most of the diplomatic missions of foreign countries accredited in Moscow refused the invitation to visit the official phase of the training at the military training grounds “Opuk” in annexed Crimea. “Only Vietnam, Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia, Malaysia, Mauritania,Mongolia, Serbia and Uruguay” expressed their willingness to visit the active phase of training,” he detailed.
Vadym Skybytskyi noted that simultaneously, during September 5-9, the command and staff exercises of the 1st and 2nd Army Corps of the Russian occupation forces are conducted in eastern Ukraine. They are accompanied by an information campaign in the Russian media. “Recently, this practice has become established, because all events of operational and combat training of these corps are held in the Russian Federation Armed Forces single system under the control of members of the General Staff and the Southern Military District of Russia,” he explained.