For the past few weeks, we have closely followed Russia’s military activity along Ukraine’s border with specific interest in the military buildup in Pogonovo, a military training ground 17 kilometers south of Voronezh, Russia. Although the Russian government has announced a partial withdrawal of forces from the border, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu indicated that the equipment and weapons of the 41st army will remain in Pogonovo through Russia’s annual Zapad exercise in September. Satellite imagery from April 10 shows that the deployment does not clearly indicate offensive or defensive postures, but rather one of readiness, with units able to move out of cantonments with relative ease and speed to conduct limited offensive or defensive operations. The planned departure of troops from Pogonovo would change this dynamic, but the decision to keep a significant arsenal there through the summer suggests a much quicker redeployment time. Russia’s final force posture along Ukraine’s border remains unsettled.
In addition to its military buildup near Ukraine, Russia has also reinforced its presence in the north. Russia has upgraded its Arctic military presence since 2013, in part by refurbishing and modernizing Soviet-era bases and airfield, including its important Rogachevo Airbase on the Novaya Zemlya archipelago. Satellite imagery captured on March 19 shows evidence of Russia’s recent deployment of MiG-31BM interceptors—supersonic, long-range aircraft capable of destroying air and ground targets. This deployment coupled with an uptick in Russian military activities and exercises in the western Arctic, as well as the testing of new hypersonic missile capabilities in the White Sea, suggest that Russia’s posture may not be strictly defensive.
Read the full CSIS analysis and view additional satellite images here.