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Ukraine crisis: New satellite images show S-400, Iskander missiles in Belarus

Source : Hindustan Times

A satellite image shows troops and logistics material support units north-west of Yelsk, Belarus, on February 4.(Reuters via Maxar Technologies)
A satellite image shows troops and logistics material support units north-west of Yelsk, Belarus, on February 4.(Reuters via Maxar Technologies)

A set of fresh satellite images released by an American company on Sunday showed details of military maneuvers at the Belarus border with Ukraine. The images also showed that Russia has advanced deployments at several locations in Belarus ahead of joint drills announced by Moscow and Minsk. 

Though Russia and Belarus have said they will hold joint exercises called ‘Union Resolve 2022’ from February 10 to 20, which are aimed at training to repel an attack on southern borders of their alliance, Nato has called the biggest deployment to Belarus since the Cold War. 

Russia has repeatedly denied it is planning to attack Ukraine, but the latest development has concerned western agencies amid simmering border tensions. 

CNN reported these images from Maxar Technologies show that camps are being established close to the border with Ukraine, hundreds of miles from where the exercises are taking place. These military units armed with missiles, multiple rocket launchers and attack aircrafts are stationed at three locations close to the border with Ukraine. 

Both Russia and Belarus have so far not responded to this development. 

The satellite images, released on Saturday, showed what Maxar Technologies identified as 15 Su-25 ground attack aircrafts and S-400 air defense system at Luninets airfield, as well as SS26 Iskander missiles and multiple rocket launchers near Yelsk, a town in Belarus which is just 25 kilometres from the Ukrainian border. 

Other photographs show some several tent encampments in the Belarusian city of Rechitsa, the CNN reported. This is the first time that tents have been erected amid the border tension. The CNN further reported that some videos have been posted on social, media which show Russian troops entertaining the locals in Rechitsa with music and demonstrations at an event called ‘Two Nations, One History, One People’.  

This satellite image shows a troop housing area and vehicle park in Rechitsa, Belarus.(AP via Maxar Tehnologies)

Ahead of the exercises, Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu visited a firing range in western Belarus on Thursday. 

Meanwhile, the western nations are busy is hectic diplomatic negotiations with the Kremlin to persuade it to ease the troop build-up. French President Emmanuel Macron will fly to Moscow on Monday in a risky diplomatic move, seeking commitments from Russian President Vladimir Putin to dial down tensions with Ukraine. 

Macron has made a frenetic series of phone calls with Western allies, Putin and the Ukrainian leader over the past week. He will follow up on Tuesday with a visit to Kyiv, staking a lot of political capital on a mission that could prove embarrassing if he returns empty-handed. 

Ahead of Macron’s visit, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed the Ukraine situation with French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. According to a State Department release, Blinken and Le Drian also talked about strengthening Nato presence in Eastern Europe, something which Moscow is opposed to. 

Russia has massed some 100,000 troops near Ukraine and demanded Nato and US security guarantees, including that Nato never admit Ukraine as a member. US official say that Russia will keep sending more troops to Ukraine border and the number is expected to swell up to 150,000 to give Putin the firepower he needs for a full-scale invasion. 

However, Ukraine - backed up by some European allies - has consistently sought to play down fears of an imminent attack as it tries to prevent further harm to its struggling economy. 

"Do not believe the apocalyptic predictions. Different capitals have different scenarios, but Ukraine is ready for any development," foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter. 

Moscow has also said Russia has the right to move troops within its national territory. Russia has also warned Western countries that military deliveries to Kyiv may encourage the latter to use them against the breakaway Russian-speaking region of Donbas.

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