Russia’s massive military buildup: Photos

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Tension between Russia and its western neighbor, Ukraine, have escalated in recent months. Russia has moved troops and weaponry closer to Ukraine’s borders, raising concern from the U.S. and its allies that President Vladimir Putin could order an invasion of the country.

Even as Moscow has insisted it has no plans for an invasion, it has lodged a slew of warnings and complaints to Western leaders.

Here’s a look at Russia’s current military capabilities, as observed from recent satellite photos as well as up-close photos of its military equipment and troops.

Tanks in a row

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Maxar Technologies


This satellite photo, taken by Maxar Technologies, shows tanks lined up on a practice firing range. 

This image was taken January 26 over the Pogonovo training area, in western Russia. According to Maxar, this training exercise represents a recent ramping-up of local military training activity, including live-fire artillery and maneuver training, in staging areas near the Russia’s border with Ukraine.

Practicing with China

'Peace Mission 2021' Joint Counterterrorism Military Exercise In Orenburg

Li Chun/China News Service via Getty Images


Here, a Pantsir self-propelled surface-to-air and anti-aircraft missile system is tested during a “Peace Mission 2021” joint counterterrorism military exercise between Russia and China.

The exercises took place September 23, 2021 in Orenburg, Russia.

Live fire training

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Maxar Technologies


This satellite image shows towed artillery being fired in a live exercise at the Pogonovo training area January 26.

The training ground is about 150 miles from the Ukraine border.

Bomber in the sky

'Peace Mission 2021' Joint Counterterrorism Military Exercise In Orenburg

Li Chun/China News Service via Getty Images


Russia’s Sukhoi Su-24MR Fencer E aircraft is shown during a September 23, 2021 joint military exercise with China. 

The supersonic, all-weather attack aircraft was developed in the Soviet Union in the 1960s. It’s built for two people, a pilot and weapons systems operator.

Moving missiles

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Maxar Technologies


These vague-looking shapes, photographed by Maxar Technologies on January 30, are actually quite deadly.

They’re believed to be SS 26 Iskander missiles — ballistic weapons with a range of about 500 miles. Observers say the weapons are part of a recent deployment.

A demonstration of readiness

Army 2021 International Military and Technical Forum in Yekaterinburg, Russia

Donat Sorokin/TASSArmy/Getty


Servicemen perform during the Russian Army 2021 International Military and Technical Forum at Sverdlovsky shooting range.

The range is in Yekaterinburg, Russia.

New arrivals in Crimea

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Maxar Technologies


Here’s a relatively close view of infantry units, fighting vehicles, artillery and other equipment recently brought into a town called Bakhchysarai.

Bakhchysarai, located in Crimea, is generally recognized by other countries as Ukrainian territory, but was annexed by Russia, along with the rest of Crimea, in 2014.

Rocket launcher

'Peace Mission 2021' Joint Counterterrorism Military Exercise In Orenburg

Li Chun/China News Service via Getty Images


A rocket launcher fires during the “Peace Mission 2021” joint counterterrorism military exercise with China.

It took place September 23, 2021, in Orenburg, Russia.

Housing for troops

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Maxar Technologies


This satellite photo captures a row of tents in Yelnya, Russia, about 160 miles from the Ukraine border.

This photo is significant to border watchers for several reasons. Note that some tents have no snow on them — likely because they have been heated, indicating that they are currently occupied. 

Newly arrived troops

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Maxar Technologies


Here’s another area believed to be housing recently arrived troops, this time at a training ground in Novoozernoye, in Crimea.

This photo was taken by satellite imaging company Maxar Technologies on February 1.

Deployment

Russia sends peacekeeping forces to Kazakhstan

Russian Defense Ministry Press Service / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images


A screen grab taken from a handout video shows a Russian military aircraft carrying Russian peacekeepers taking off from the military base in the Ivanovo region, outside Moscow, on January 6, 2022. 

A Russia-led military alliance sent troops to Kazakhstan, where riots stemming from nationwide protests over high fuel prices led to a state of emergency and the resignation of the government. 

Power on display

'Peace Mission 2021' Joint Counterterrorism Military Exercise In Orenburg

Li Chun/China News Service via Getty Images


Military vehicles are on display at the opening ceremony of the “Peace Mission 2021” joint counterterrorism military exercise, on September 20, 2021, in Orenburg, Russia.

The exercises involved live fire from infantry fighting vehicles and assault vehicles, including Russia’s Mi-8 helicopters, SU-24MR reconnaissance aircraft, SU-34 fighter bombers and IL-76 military transport aircraft.

Russia’s military capabilities

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Maxar Technologies


This satellite photo, captured January 19 by Maxar Technologies, shows armored personnel carriers and trucks at Russia’s Klimovo storage facility, about 8 miles north of the Ukrainian border. 

The facility is one of several “locations in western Russia where additional troops and ground-forces equipment have recently been deployed,” the imaging company said in a statement.

Warships on parade

Main Naval Parade in St Petersburg marks Russian Navy Day

Alexander Demianchuk/TASS/Getty Images


Warships take part in the main naval parade marking Russian Navy Day in the Gulf of Finland on July 25, 2021.

Representing Russian firepower

2021 International Army Games In Xinjiang

Wang Xiaojun/China News Service via Getty Images


Military participants from Russia compete in a contest during the 2021 International Army Games on September 1, 2021, in Korla, in northwestern China.

One event in the annual games is a tank biathlon.

An ominous first

First Joint Naval Patrol By China And Russia In West Pacific

Sun Zifa/China News Service via Getty Images


A formation of Russian and Chinese warships sails through the Tsugaru Strait during a joint naval exercise on October 18, 2021 in the western part of the Pacific Ocean.

It was the first time Japan has confirmed the passage of Chinese and Russian naval vessels sailing together through the Tsugaru Strait.

Rehearsal with a submarine

Rehearsal of Russian Navy Day main military parade in St Petersburg

Peter Kovalev/TASS/Getty


Russia’s Project 949AM nuclear-powered cruise missile submarine Orel takes part in a rehearsal for the Russian Navy Day main military parade in the Gulf of Finland. 

The parade took place in July 2021.

Klimovo rail yard activity

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Maxar Technologies


This satellite photo of the Klimovo Russian rail yard is of interest in part because of what’s on the rails: Vehicles, most likely for military cargo or supplies.

Toward the curving road, there’s another gathering of vehicles that have likely just come off the rails. 

Just how close is close?

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Stephen Wood/Maxar Technologies


This map graphic, provided by Maxar Technologies, shows the various areas where the satellite imaging company has recently taken photos indicating a buildup in Russian military might. 

The neighboring country of Ukraine is also shown for reference.

“Battle groups”

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Maxar Technologies


Analysts say that this satellite photo shows a “battle group” of various military vehicles, many of whom have arrived over the past several weeks.

The image was taken January 19.

Ice fields

Belarus Russia Military Drills

Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP


This photo, taken from video and released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on February 7, 2022, shows a detachment of warships passing through ice fields in La Perouse Strait, from the Sea of Japan to the Sea of Okhotsk. 

The Russian military has launched a series of drills amid tensions with the West over Ukraine.

Attack aircraft on the ground

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Maxar Technologies


Six SU-25 aircraft are seen at the Luninets airfield in Belarus in early February.

The staging may be linked to expected joint exercises between Russia and Belarus. But this image is also consistent with supplemental videos showing Russian forces moving through Belarus and building field camps within 20 miles of the Ukrainian border.

Tanks and tents

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Maxar Technologies


This satellite photo of Russia’s Pogonovo training area, taken January 16, shows several types of recently-arrived military equipment and weapons.

Toward the bottom left are some of Russia’s SS 26 Iskander short-range ballistic missiles. Further to the right is a group of tanks, thought to be enough for a tank battalion. And furthest to the right is self-propelled artillery — essentially, guns on a tank chassis.

Beefed up

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Maxar Technologies


This satellite photo shows rows of military vehicles amassing in Yelnya, Russia, about 160 miles from the Ukrainian border.

The presence of military equipment is fairly routine for this area — but not this many, analysts say. Tent camps can be seen on the bottom right.

Rocket launchers?

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Maxar Technologies


Here’s a closer view of what are believed to be SS26 Iskander and multiple rocket launchers.

This was taken northwest of Yelsk, in Belarus, on February 4, 2022.

Possible division

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Maxar Technologies


Analysts say the Russian military will often park equipment from the same deployment division together when preparing for a battle. 

Analysts may call these areas “vehicle parks,” basically a large military parking lot. This image was taken January 19, 2022, in Yelnya, Russia.

Warships on the move

Belarus Russia Military Drills

Russian Defense Ministry Press/ AP


Here’s another screen grab, released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press, depicting its warships doing drills in the in La Perouse Strait.

It was released February 7, 2022.

Closer view of tanks

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Maxar Technologies


Here’s a closer view of additional tanks, artillery and support equipment recently arrived in Yelyna, Russia, on January 19. 

This finding fits a pattern that analysts are seeing across western Russia — deploying new units to existing holding facilities or training areas.

Impact craters

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Maxar Technologies


This satellite photo was taken over the Persianovsky training area, 30 miles from the Ukrainian border, on January 28.

Artillery impact craters, likely from a very recent live firing exercise, can be seen. 

View from the clouds

Belarus Russia Military Drills

Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP


This image, taken from video and released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on February 7, shows a view from the cockpit of a Russian Su-30SM fighter jet as it flies over Belarus during joint drills. 

Moscow has deployed troops and weapons to Belarus, adding to a buildup of Russian forces near Ukraine, fueling fears of an invasion. 

Repeating history

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Maxar Technologies


This isn’t the first time that satellite images have captured troop and equipment buildups on Russia’s border with Ukraine; a similar buildup was captured via satellite in April 2021.

This photo, showing an increase in deployments to the Pogonovo training area, was taken January 16. Vehicle parks with tanks and tent camps housing troops can be seen.

More heated tents?

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Maxar Technologies


This satellite photo, taken February 1 of the Angarsky area of southern Crimea, shows new rows of troop tents. 

Notice the lack of snow on the tents, an indication that they may be heated and occupied.

Armored personnel carriers

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Maxar Technologies


Unlike Pogonovo and other training areas, Klimovo is more of a military storage area and staging ground. 

Here’s a satellite shot of newly arrived armored personnel carriers and trucks at the facility, taken January 19, 2022.

Abandoned or not?

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Maxar Technologies


Recent Maxar satellite images are thought to show more than 350 vehicles parked at an abandoned ammunition storage facility near the Russian town of Klintsy, a town near where Ukrainian, Russian and Belarusian borders meet.

This photo was taken on December 25, 2021.

More in Belarus

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Maxar Technologies


This is the Brestsky training ground in Belarus, a key economic and political partner to Russia.

New troop tents can be seen on the ground in this photo, taken January 22, 2022. 

Busier rail yard

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Maxar Technologies


Satellite photos showed an uptick in inventory, such as armored vehicles, and activity at the Yevpatoria rail yard in Crimea.

The photo was taken February 1.

Near the border

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Maxar Technologies


This is a satellite view of a housing area for troops at Rechitsa, in Belarus.

These satellite images show that, for the first time, several tent encampments have been built at Rechitsa. This photo was taken February 4. 

Threading the needle

Belarus Russia Military Drills

Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP


A Russian ship, part of a detachment of warships, is seen maneuvering through ice fields in La Perouse Strait, from the Sea of Japan to the Sea of Okhotsk.

The Russian military has launched a series of drills such as this one amid tensions with the west over Ukraine. 



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