Even as both Russia and Ukraine call for intensified diplomatic efforts to avert an all-out war, high-resolution satellite imagery shows Moscow has heightened military activity near the border with its western neighbour.
The high-resolution satellite images released by Maxar show multiple new field deployments of armoured equipment and troops in Belgorod, Soloti and Valuyki, the developments the private US company said indicated increased military readiness.
This new activity represents a change in the pattern of the previously observed deployments of Russian battlegroups, which include tanks, armoured personnel carriers, artillery and support equipment. Until recently, most of the deployments had been seen primarily positioned at or near existing military garrisons and training areas.
Several large deployments of battlegroups that had been at and near the military garrison at Soloti have departed and extensive vehicle tracks and some convoys of armoured equipment are seen throughout the area.
Some equipment has also been deployed east of nearby the Russian city of Valuyki, approximately 15 kilometers north of the Ukraine border, the high-resolution satellite images show.
A number of new field deployments are also seen northwest of Belgorod (deployments are approximately 30 kilometers from the border with Ukraine) with much of the equipment and troops positioned in or near forested areas. Other company-sized units are deployed within farm and industrial areas.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Joe Biden have accepted in principle to hold a summit, which can only happen if Moscow does not invade Ukraine, the French presidency announced Monday.
The summit, proposed by France’s Emmanuel Macron, will be expanded to relevant stakeholders to discuss “security and strategic stability in Europe,” a statement from the Elysee said, adding that preparations would start between Russia and the US on Thursday.
Russia, according to Western leaders, has more than 150,000 troops along with missile batteries and warships massed around Ukraine, poised to strike.
Vladimir Putin has also stepped up his rhetoric, reiterating demands for written guarantees that the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, or NATO, roll back deployments in eastern Europe to positions from decades ago.