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‘More offensive than defensive’ Open source analysts trace Russian troops to an army camp in the Voronezh region — on the border with government-controlled Ukrainian territory

Russian troops are concentrating in a new army camp in the Voronezh region, reports the Moscow-based Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT). Based on open source analysis, CIT determined that Russian forces are setting up camp about 250 kilometers (155 miles) from Ukraine — in an area that borders territory controlled by Kyiv, not the self-proclaimed people’s republics. While CIT describes this position as “more offensive than defensive,” its analysts still believe that this “threatening” deployment may very well be an effort to ratchet up the pressure on Kyiv and Washington.

Russian troops, which have been moving toward the border with Ukraine since late March, have concentrated in a field camp in the Voronezh region. It’s location is approximately 250 kilometers (155 miles) from the Ukrainian border, according to analysts from the Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT).

After analyzing photos and videos of military equipment posted on social networks, and comparing them with images from Google Street View and Yandex.Maps, CIT’s analysts determined that the military equipment is being unloaded at two stations near the city of Voronezh, after which it travels southward to the Pogonovo military training ground.

Military equipment spotted in Voronezh

Building off of CIT’s research, Bellingcat investigator Aric Toler wrote on Twitter on April 8 that satellite imagery of the Russian military camp’s location shows “changes suggestive of tents being set up.” In turn, New York Times journalist Christiaan Triebert shared high-resolution satellite imagery, revealing “hundreds of military vehicles at recently formed staging areas.”

CIT notes that there is also evidence of a military deployment near the town of Ostrogozhsk in the Voronezh region, which is located approximately 150 kilometers (93 miles) from the border with Ukraine. 

As CIT’s analysts underscore, Russia’s Voronezh region doesn’t border Ukraine’s uncontrolled territories — the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics. The Voronezh region only borders part of the Luhansk region, which is Ukrainian government controlled. Therefore, in the event of the potential Ukrainian offensive that the unrecognized republics are warning about, it would be “more logical” to deploy Russian forces in the Rostov region “to support the separatist formations,” CIT writes. As such, the analysts conclude that the Russian military’s position “is more offensive than defensive.” 

“However, even in this case, it’s impossible to unequivocally assert that an invasion of Russian troops into Ukraine’s controlled territory is imminent. If the Kremlin’s goal is indeed to pressure Kyiv and Washington, then it would be completely logical to deploy troops in a rather threatening manner — for example, across the border from Kharkiv and the controlled Luhansk region.”

In its previous analysis, CIT described the current situation as the highest concentration of Russian troops in the region since the Donbas War’s “hot phase” in 2014–2015 (however, at the time, Russia’s military camps were much closer to the border). Moreover the analysts emphasized that military units are being brought into the region from other parts of the country, which isn’t indicative of local military exercises. Russia’s next strategic exercises, which could potentially involve large-scale troop movements, are set to take place in September.

Summary by Grigory Levchenko

Translated by Eilish Hart

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