Decoding Russian manoeuvre in North Crimea, Belarus & Melitopol after withdrawal from Kherson

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Decoding Russian manoeuvre in North Crimea, Belarus & Melitopol after withdrawal from Kherson
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Russian troopers are noticed building encampments and resurrecting defensive bastions near Crimea’s north.

New Delhi,UPDATED: Nov 11, 2022 18:36 IST

Satellite images

Satellite images show that Russia was already preparing new defense lines of trenches before announcing exit from Kherson.

By Bidisha Saha: On November 9, Sergei Shoigu, Russian Defense Minister ordered, in a televised meeting with the Russian commander in Ukraine, the withdrawal of Russian troops from the strategic regional capital of Kherson and the setting up of defenses on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River.

However, the announcement was received with a pinch of salt by Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy who advised his men to “move very carefully, without emotions, without unnecessary risk” as he believes the “enemy does not bring us gifts, does not make gestures of goodwill”

The skepticism on the part of Ukraine has been winnowed by the Institute of Study of War (ISW), a US-based think tank, that says in its report on November 9, “Russian withdrawal from the west bank of the Dnipro is unlikely to be a trap” as the mechanism of withdrawal is “incompatible with a campaign to deceive and trap Ukrainian troops”.

ISW also emphasises the stance of war bloggers that “the withdrawal is the natural consequence of systematic failures within Russian military and command structures and frames the withdrawal as an inevitable result of political nuances beyond the realm of military control”

Satellite imagery posted by a social media handle taken on November 4 shows Russia was already preparing new defense lines of trenches, at least five days before announcing exit from Kherson, on the Dnipro river’s eastern bank in anticipation of the move.

The graphic from a Twitter scanner handle demonstrates Ukraine’s military gains in Kherson.

Satellite Imagery for Build-up in Northern Crimea

In the latest tweet by European satellite imagery expert, Benjamin Pittet, Russian troopers are noticed building encampments and resurrecting defensive bastions near Crimea’s north. Russia entrenches the checkpoint of Chonhar near Kherson Oblast and Armyansk near the northern Crimean peninsula. A gif of the satellite imagery of the Novotroitsk area also suggests that Russians “are building a fortress” near Orenburg Oblast. Although a standard military procedure, the Russian forces have not previously performed at scale in northern Crimea and elsewhere in southern Ukraine.

Satellite image captured on October 5 shows new trenches are dug when compared to the imagery of August 12 at Chonhar checkpoint.
Satellite image captured on October 5 shows new trenches are dug when compared to the imagery of August 12 at Chonhar checkpoint.
An excavator is noticed digging up a trench halfway on November 5 in Armyansk

Speaking to India Today on the build-up situation, the OSINT blogger said, “The next move will depend on Ukraine, as Russia is resurrecting these trenches because they are considering a Ukrainian offensive towards Crimea.”

Latest Post on Fortifications in Melitopol

The Ukrainian Mayor of Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov, stated in his telegram post on November 10 that the Russians “are strengthening their fortifications in Melitopol Region in order to hold the land corridor to Crimea” which came as a ramification of “gradual deoccupation of Kherson Region”.

Screenshot of Telegram post of Ivan Fedorov, Mayor of Melitopol. (Translated to English).

Satellite Imagery for Encampment in Belarus

Another set of satellite images from RFL/RE’s Belarus Service posted on November 8 shows the encampment of the area near Abuz-Lyasnouski in western Belarus, Repishcha in central Belarus, and Lasvida on the outskirts of Minsk by Russian troops.

The Intelligence Directorate of the Ukraine Ministry of Defense also claimed that Russia is planning to send forces to Belarus.“There are places being prepared to accommodate 20,000 mobilized Russians in Belarus. These forces should replenish the units of the Russian army stationed in Belarus. As a result of the replenishment, the ratio of “experienced” and “young” soldiers should be 1 to 5,” the report says. Russia has set up more than 300 tents in three locations to accommodate military forces at three training grounds in Belarus.

What’s Next?

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov says “the winter will slow down every activity on the battlefield for all sides … It’s beneficial for all sides” in a recent interview with Reuters in Kyiv.

Another news channel speculates that “With the imminent onset of bitter winter conditions that could freeze existing front lines in place, Russia may now be looking to bide its time before launching new offensives in the spring”. An American Broadcast television network reports along similar lines, “expected winter slowdown in fighting” will act as an opportunity for diplomacy to settle between Russia and Ukraine.

However, in contrast, the latest ISW report of November 10 says it “does not assess the fighting in Ukraine will halt or enter a stalemate due to winter weather, despite faulty Western assumptions.”





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