A day after the European Union’s top diplomat warned that over 100,000 Russian troops have now gathered on Ukraine’s border and in annexed Crimea, new satellite images show the mighty stockpile of military equipment that the Kremlin has deployed to back them up.
On Monday, the EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said a massive Russian army has gathered on the Ukraine border, adding: “It’s the highest military deployment of Russian army in Ukrainian borders ever... When you deploy a lot of troops, a spark can jump here or there.”
On Tuesday, the satellite images published by the Wall Street Journal showed the extent of the Russian force that’s causing so much concern. The photos, taken between March 27 and April 16 by commercial satellite company Maxar Technologies, show that Russia is gathering fighter jets, attack helicopters, and even building a new military hospital.
Experts say the range and number of fighter jets gathered are a cause for sharp concern. Philip Breedlove, a retired U.S. Air Force general who was the top NATO military commander when Russian forces annexed Crimea in 2014, told the Journal: “They have appropriately deployed the various elements of airpower that would be needed to establish air superiority over the battlefield and directly support the ground troops.”
Dan Jablonsky, the chief executive of Maxar Technologies, said the company decided to make its images public so that the world knows more about what Russia is planning on the Ukraine border. “I think it removes some of the uncertainty and doubt about what is really happening in a fairly critical region of the world,” said Jablonsky.
U.S. officials are also showing increasing concern about what could happen in the region. The U.S. estimate of the number of Russian troops in Crimea or near Ukraine stands at 80,000, according to the Journal—double the number of troops deployed to the region just one month ago. However, the officials said they would expect to see bigger ammunition stockpiles and more military hospitals if a large-scale invasion was imminent.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told the Journal: “In a few weeks from now they will be close to sufficient combat readiness to pursue a military escalation. By our estimations, their combined military force will reach over 120,000 troops by then... We don’t know whether Putin will decide to attack, but he will certainly be ready to do so.”
Last week, during a call between President Joe Biden and Putin, the White House said the U.S. president “emphasised the United States’ unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”