Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
Russian Troop Numbers Rise in Crimea
Russian soldiers in Simferopol, March 1 2014. (Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Dmitro Timchuk of the Information Resistance group reports that movements of Russian troops into Crimea are intensifying. In recent hours, 430 Russian soldiers and around 20 pieces of military equipment have crossed the Kerch Straits into Ukrainian territory by ferry. Another 300 personnel and up to ten items of military equipment have been brought in on landing craft.
One important point reported by Information Resistance’s team on the ground is that Russian servicemen who arrived on ships of the Baltic Fleet coming via the Mediterranean were very much surprised to find themselves in Crimea. Neither the officers nor the other ranks were given advance notice of where they were being sent.
Russian military staff documents state that the deployment is part of a rotation of the troop contingent based in Crimea. But Information Resistance has not observed similar numbers of troops being withdrawn from the peninsula.
Overnight [March 7-8], Dmitro Timchuk reported that Russian president Vladimir Putin had “tasked his troops and the informal gangs in Crimea to clear the peninsula of Ukrainian troops by March 16”.
“Russian troops have so far maintained a degree of discipline, although our information indicates that morale is not at all high. That is hardly surprising, since officially they are not present in Crimea, Putin has disowned them, and it is not entirely clear how their legal status differs from that of the criminals in [Crimean prime minister Sergei] Aksyonov’s ‘self-defence’ units,” Timchuk said.
Timchuk concludes from this that Putin will need to extricate his troops from Crimea swiftly, otherwise “they might turn into an uncontrollable mob”.
On the evening of March 7, armed men attempted to storm a Ukrainian unit in Sebastopol. However, the Ukrainian soldiers managed to hold out. On the morning of March 8, it emerged that Russian spetsnaz forces had captured the Scholkine border post in [northeast] Crimea.
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