Who committed treason in Ukraine?

The publication of the minutes of the National Security and Defence Council meeting on 28 February 2014 is interesting for what it confirms and what it points to as to who committed treason. Several things are quite striking.

The first is recognition of mass support for Russia among Crimean residents which is not surprising as pro-Russian sentiment was always high in this region. Secondly, recognition of mass defections and fears of mass betrayals among local siloviky. This is in fact what happened. The defection of the majority of Ministry of Interior, SBU, military and prosecutor’s office personnel constitutes one of the biggest single acts of treason in modern history.  Third, a sense of disorientation on the part of the US. This is not news to anybody who knows President Obama who I compared to Yushchenko in terms of his indecisiveness. Fourthly, recognition that armed resistance is futile because Ukraine had no large and well equipped security forces. Finally, weak political will to react in any way possible by nearly all Euromaidan leaders, including Tyahnybok, Yatseniuk and Tymoshenko.

But, the minutes of the meeting tell us much more as they point to the heart of the treason of the Yanukovych presidency and why they should be accountable for their actions. The following 4 treasonous steps were permitted by Yanukovych to be undertaken by Russia:

1. Under Russian citizen and Minister of Defence’s Dmitri Salamatin the database of conscripts was destroyed. Under Ministers of Defence Salamatin, Pavel Lebedev and Mykhaylo Yezhel, Ukraine’s military budget was severely reduced and military equipment was sold or transferred to Russia. Salamatin planned to reduce Ukraine’s armed forces to 75, 000 by 2017. Russian citizen Yuri Boriskin was appointed head of the General Staff at the Ministry of Defence. Yezhel’s daughter is married to an admiral of Russia’s Pacific Fleet.

2. The head of Yanukovych’s personal bodyguards, Viacheslav Zanevskiy, was a Russian citizen.

3. During Yushchenko’s presidency, Russia’s intelligence services operated covertly but under Yanukovych they were permitted to operate overtly in the Crimea, Donbas and elsewhere without hindrance. 90 percent of SBU activities were directed against the opposition in the form of illegal wiretapping, surveillance and organisation of vigilantes for election fraud and violence against opposition members and journalists. The FSB was given complete reign over the SBU and commandeered data on 22, 000 officials and informants. Hard drives and flash drives not taken to Russia were destroyed. Valentyn Nalyvaychenko said they took ‘everything that forms a basis for a professional intelligence service.’ SBU Chairman Aleksandr Yakymenko, Russian citizen Igor Kalinin and 4 top intelligence chiefs fled to Russia. 235 SBU agents were arrested of whom 25 were charged with high treason, including the counter-intelligence chief. After the Euromaidan all regional SBU directors were replaced. The FSB reportedly introduced surveillance technology on Ukraine’s mobile telephone network. The extent of Russian intelligence penetration came to light in spring-summer 2014 when Ukrainian missions in the ATO were compromised by intelligence leaks that provided the Russians and separatists with sufficient time to consolidate their positions in the crucial first months of the conflict. Obviously, not all the traitors have been removed from the SBU and over the last 8 months, 30 SBU officers have been arrested for corruption and treason.

4. During the Euromaidan, 30 FSB officers visited Ukraine on 3 occasions in 13-15 December 2013, 26-29 January and 20-22 February 2014 and used the SBU sanatorium at Koncha Zaspa, near Kyiv as their base of operations. Their main liaison was SBU Counter-Intelligence Chief Volodymyr Buk. Their goals were to increase protection of their Russian assets; ensure continued access to SBU files, special communications and headquarters; provide training for ‘antiterrorism’ exercises; and supply anti-terrorist and crowd control equipment for the SBU Alpha special forces and Ministry of Interior Berkut to destroy the Euromaidan.

Who is accountable for this mass treason?

Obviously at the top of those who committed treason are Yanukovych and key members of the Donetsk clan such as the Kluyev brothers, Borys Kolesnikov and Renat Akhmetov. Yanukovych and Andriy Kluyev have fled to Russia, Serhiy Kluyev was permitted to flee in summer 2015, and Kolesnikov and Akhmetov live peacefully in Ukraine and the latter has parliamentary immunity. Akhmetov and Yanukovych had a business and political relationship since the 1990s and to believe the oligarch had no knowledge of the treason taking place is not credible.

A second group who committed treason are the gas lobby who joined and aligned with the Party of Regions from 2006. Serhiy Lyovochkin was Chief of Staff for all of Yanukovych’s presidency except for 1 month (he resigned in late January 2014). Again, it is not credible to believe that Lyovochkin had no knowledge of the massive treason taking place or of the massive corruption. Nevertheless, he suffers from no consequences as he negotiated a backroom deal with Petro Poroshenko in mid March 2014 in Vienna. Today he is on no Ukrainian wanted list and has parliamentary immunity.

Dmytro Firtash and Yuriy Boyko, 2 other prominent gas lobby leaders, also gained massively from corruption under Yanukovych. Firtash is only wanted by the US, but not by Ukraine (according to Prosecutor-General Shokhin) for criminal charges while Boyko has parliamentary immunity. Firtash has always been Russia’s agent of influence in Ukraine, as a lengthy Reuters investigation pointed out.

Other members of the Azarov government either fled to Russia or continue to live in Ukraine. One cabinet member received the support of the gas lobby and was elected as Ukraine’s president. How much did the other members of the government know what was taking place under Yanukovych?

What was permitted to take place under Yanukovych was treason of a massive scale that nearly destroyed Ukraine. If Ukraine’s civil and military volunteers had not defended Ukraine in 2014, Putin’s NovoRossiya project would have won and crippled Ukraine as an independent state.

Has anybody been held accountable for this treason? Has anybody been criminally charged? Why is Lyovochkin still a free man when as Chief of Staff he had to know and participate in these criminal acts.

United Kingdom & Emirates strike deals with Ukraine to arm and instruct military

The United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates have struck substantial deals to better equip Ukraine’s armed forces as the country seeks to rapidly equip, train, and modernize its military in the face of war with Russia. In separate deals, the UAE will supply Ukraine with armaments and military hardware, while the Britain will provide necessary medical, intelligence, logistics and infantry training.

The deployment of up to 75 British Armed Forces personnel to Ukraine will begin as soon as next week as part of what the Ministry of Defense called a “training mission.” While a seemingly small contingent, the deployment of British troops to Ukraine would mark a significant boost in assistance relative to the benign non-lethal aid received to date.

“Over the course of the next month we’re going to be deploying British service personnel to provide advice and a range of training, to tactical intelligence to logistics, to medical care,” British Prime Minister Cameron told lawmakers during a session of parliament. “We’ll also be developing an infantry training program with Ukraine to improve the durability of their forces.”

In parallel to Cameron’s statements, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced the signing of a deal on military and technical cooperation with the United Arab Emirates during a tour of the IDEX 2015 arms expo in Abu Dhabi. Details on the much needed arms deal were scarce, with Ukrainian interior minister Anton Herashchenko vaguely noting it would involve the “delivery of certain types of armaments and military hardware to Ukraine.”

Ukrainian and UAE companies have previously worked together in the development and production of BTR-3 personnel carriers. Notably, the UAE Army maintains the second largest detachment of Russian-made BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles in the world outside of Russia.

Poroshenko had also reportedly planned to meet with chief Pentagon weapons buyer, Frank Kendall, at the show with the intent of finally securing U.S. weaponry to defend Ukraine from the ongoing Russian invasion.

In addition, Ukrainian companies were involved in several multi-million dollar contracts, including joint development of Superhind Mi-24 attack helicopters with a South African firm, as the country aims to expedite its military modernization process, Poroshenko later said in a news release. Ukraine’s Air Force has been battered in the conflict.

The Ukraine deals coincide with a flurry of activity to bolster military support in the Baltics, with Lithuania announcing a planned reintroduction of military conscription. The Lithuanian government’s motion will see its armed forces increase by 45% in size. Meanwhile, U.S. Soldiers from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment took part in a joint parade with Estonian forces in Narva, a city directly on the border with Russia. It was the second time U.S. forces took part in the annual parade, marking the 97th anniversary of Estonian Independence.

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U.S. forces in Narva, Estonia during the military parade

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Moscow readying a massive Russian invasion of Ukraine

The Kremlin’s calls for a ceasefire and calls by the pro-Russian militants in the Donbas for a mass mobilization are all designed to distract attention from Moscow’s preparations for a massive invasion of Ukraine sometime in the coming days, according to Russian military analyst Aleksandr Golts.

And that conclusion is strengthened, he suggests, by something else: Moscow is moving troops from other regions of the Russian Federation and even from troubled areas of Central Asia toward the Ukrainian border in order to have sufficient forces for a large-scale invasion.

“Games at mobilization” are being launched “in order to mask preparation for another broad-scale introduction of Russian forces

In a Yezhednevny Zhurnal commentary today, Golts says that even as Vladimir Putin’s press secretary declared that the Kremlin leader is “extremely concerned about the development of the situation in the Donbas,” TASS in the same news item reported that a Kremlin aide had said Moscow can understand why the militants are calling for a general mobilization.

“The leaders of the self-proclaimed republics understand” what Moscow is saying, Golts says. They too are for talks but “only if” they get to keep the territory they have seized, and since that doesn’t seem to be on the table, they will continue to fight – and with the support of Moscow as well.

Golts notes in passing that the militants are unlikely to be able to raise the 100,000 troops they have promised to bring to the colors within ten days. There simply aren’t enough people under their control to allow them to do so: If they did, they would be drafting a larger share of the population than even Stalin did during World War II.

That in turn means, the independent Russian military analyst says, that these “games at mobilization” are being launched “in order to mask preparation for another broad-scale introduction of Russian forces.” The militants and Moscow did much the same thing last summer, and thus it appears likely a new invasion is in the offing.

And confirming that conclusion is a report by Ekho Moskvy picking up Tajik media stories that “approximately 3,000 Russian soldiers from the 201st Russian military base in Tajikistan will be sent to the border with Ukraine.”

Their places will be taken by Tajik soldiers, a step that raises some serious security issues. Given the withdrawal of Western forces from Afghanistan, the threat of radical Islam to Central Asia is becoming ever greater. Pulling Russian troops out of the region now suggests just how important Moscow’s next moves in Ukraine must be in its calculations.

As Golts notes, “having [now] concentrated on the war in Ukraine, Russia risks losing Central Asia.” Indeed, he says, Moscow may soon face “a strategic nightmare” as a result. By sending troops from Central Asia to Ukraine, it may soon face the influx from Central Asia of “tens of thousands of refugees.”

Evidence of paid Russian mercenaries mounting

Evidence over the past several days illustrating the motivations behind Russian insurgents in eastern Ukraine has been mounting. While some have, indeed, been driven by revanchist ideology (with one famously telling TIME that they were simply conquering “historically Russian lands”), the source of these groups’ financing has been more difficult to trace than the source of their weapons in lieu of a paper trail. This week has, however, seen three illuminating examples of the financial motivations of those recruited.

On June 19, The Interpreter published an investigation, discussing the motivations of those involved in the battle for Donetsk International Airpot. The article discusses one, Yevgeny Korolenko, a rifleman and veteran of the Soviet war in Afghanistan:

He was a mechanic by training who had a job in some friends’ computer repair shop as a delivery man until they were unable to pay him. His wife speculated that perhaps his shortage of funds could have pushed him into volunteering for Donetsk, although he didn’t speak of it.

Two days later the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) published a video confession of a mercenary claiming to have been contracted by Russia’s KGB successor agency – the Federal Security Service (FSB). The man in the confessional says he was acting on a $1,000 bounty for every Ukrainian officer killed (and $300 for soldiers).

Today, the Moscow Times published an article citing well-known journalist Olga Romanova, describing another insurgent who was also killed in action during the same battle in Donetsk as Korolenko:

 Four other young men from Ivanovo died with him. I asked his parents why he went there. Their reply was grotesque: ‘He wanted to pay off some loans …'”

All of this precedes today’s other revelation that Russia has been actively attempting to recruit mercenary veterans of the French Foreign Legion, targeting especially those of Slavic ethnic origin. The Russian military has in recent years opened its recruitment scope to foreigners with the lure of acquiring fast tracked citizenship.

While the number of professional, heavily armed Russian soldiers mounts in Ukraine, so too is the evidence behind the financial motivations of those fighting there – shaping the war to be less a result of ad hoc extremism, but instead rather that of a state-financed proxy war.

Insurgents Identified: The Green Men of VKontakte

Ukrainian intelligence produced and presented a dossier of photographs to the OSCE last week. The images, and official accusations, point to Russian “sabotage-reconnaissance groups” being involved in the recent armed insurgency in eastern Ukraine – Donetsk region specifically. According to a New York Times article, the photos and their descriptions were “endorsed by the Obama administration,” but who are these men? With the power of crowdsourcing, but mostly with the power of social networking and public profiles, the identities of a series of Russian insurgents in Donetsk have been uncovered. Men have been comparing the size of their guns since the invention of gunpowder, and thankfully these few decided to flaunt just that. Publicly. On the internet.

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‘Terek Wolf Company’ insignia seen on several militants

From the identified militants, a few notes can be made from the following gunmen who appear to be connected to the raids in Sloviansk and Kramatorsk. For one, not all are from Russia. While some may be local radicals, others appear to come from Belorechensk in Russia, or have connections to related neo-Cossack groups. This does not necessarily exonerate Russian state involvement, however. While it’s been known that military veterans and Russian ‘tourists’ have been actively involved for some time, the presence of Registered Cossacks of the Russian Federation connects Russia officially to the ongoing crisis. Registered Cossack organizations enjoy financial and organizational support from the authorities, including monthly salary as police auxiliaries. This, of course, isn’t the first controversial deployment of Cossack forces, who made a name for themselves on the world stage enforcing the law in Sochi.

Another point of interest is the insignia seen on a number of the gunmen. For clarity’s sake, the symbol is that of Andrei Shkuro‘s ‘Terek Wolf Company’, a detachment of White emigre Cossacks who fought for Nazi Germany during the second world war.

So who is involved in the Ukrainian invasion? Let’s take a look.

Evgeny “Dingo” Ponomarev

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Ponomarev is a 39 year old native of Belorechensk, Russia, in the Kuban region. Pictured above, he is a Registered Cossack with full police badge. He is active in the Terek Cossack community, and featured in many of the photos recently presented by CNN and the BBC detailing the same group of insurgents appearing in Kramatorsk and Sloviansk. At this moment there is no confirmation that he is directly related to self-declared Sloviansk mayor Vyacheslav Ponomarev, though they are pictured together.

Profile: Евгений Пономарев

Alexander Ganchev

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While Ganchev’s profile is littered with cat pictures and memes, in 2013 through to January 2014 there are many photos of him in combat training, including with sniper rifles, assault rifles, heavy machine guns, and rocket launchers. Recent photos from April show him with members who seized buildings in Donetsk. Groups he is a member of include Berkut support, The Supreme Council of the people of Ukraine and Russia (which asks for “practical” assistance in imposing referendums), Crimean “self-defense” groups, and airsoft rifle groups in Crimea (which appears to be a front to gather militants and buy weapons). His current city is listed as Horlivka, Ukraine, and he appears to be from Makiivka.

Profile: Александр Ганичев

Igor Georgievsky

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His hometown is listed as Simferopol and photos show him in Sevastopol, and in group shots with other self-defense militants. Above he is seen at the Sloviansk airfield in Donetsk region (here’s video of the airfield with the same helicopters). He’s in the ‘People’s Liberation Movement in Ukraine‘ (which calls to ‘liberate’ the ‘western occupied colony’ from ‘invaders’), Russian Spring, and another group which calls to retake Odessa from ‘fascism’. He is seen with the Terek Wolf Company insignia.

Update: Since this article broke, Georgievsky has issued a statement of pride that he and his “brothers of the list, and those who have not yet got there” gained attention.

Profile: Игорь Георгиевский

Tikhon Karetniy

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Like Ponomarev, Karetniy is a member of the Belorechensk Cossack community in Russia. A photo posted on the community page details the group involved in the seizures in Sloviansk called “Terek Wolf Sotnia“. His profile is relatively new (registered in February, active more recently) so it cannot be confirmed that his identity is real, however, he does have the social connections with other members involved with a higher degree of authenticity. It’s likely this is him pictured with Ponomarev.

Update: Karetniy has since deleted all personal information and photos from his page.

Profile: Тихон Каретный

Zheka Kovalyov

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Kovalyov is another from Belorechensk, Russia. His photo albums contain many swastikas and neo-Nazi or ultranationalist imagery. Photos dating back 2 years show him in paramilitary garb, while his profile picture appears to be  ‘self-defense’ force paramilitary in Crimea. In another photo he appears with Karetniy while wearing the ‘Terek Wolf Company’ badge, who is also an insurgent in Donetsk with a Russian Cossack connection.

Profile: Zheka Kovalyov

Evgen Zloy

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Photos show him carrying an automatic rifle in front government buildings in Slovinansk. His profile lists him as being a Simferopol native, and is a member of a Simferopol Don Cossack group. Photos also show what appears to be a swastika pendant, and Russian ultra-nationalist graphics.

Profile: Евген Злой

Edvard Pitersky

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Pitersky lists himself as residing in Kharkiv and a member of the Oplot fight club and ‘Polite People of Kharkiv‘ (a reference to the ‘Green Men’ from Russia). He is ironically a member of the ‘Anti-fascist movement of the South-East‘ as well as the ‘White Legion‘ neo-Nazi community.

Profile: Edvard Pitersky

Dima Kharkovsky

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Current city is listed as Sloviansk. He appears to be a local and a member of Gubarev’s militia.

Profile: Dima Kharkovsky

Ignat “Topaz” Kromskoy

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Topaz is a sort of celebrity in internet circles. He was placed under house arrest on March 29 for his involvement in the March 1st raid on the Kharkiv Regional State Administration building. On April 7, Topaz fled house arrest, cutting off his monitoring bracelet. Topaz has since given interviews with the Russian channel LifeNews, and spoken about the current ‘guerrilla struggle’ and need to use firearms to capture buildings. Pictures with assault rifles, BDU, and St. George ribbon indicate it’s likely he has been involved in the current insurgency in Donetsk or Luhansk since his arrest.

Profile: Ignat Kromskoy

Sergey Anastasov

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This profile is less straightforward, but the photos appear to sync up. Anastasov is from Simferopol. Photos include him with various firearms. The above photo makes no indication on which building he is in, so it’s possible he was only involved in Crimea.

Profile: Sergey Anastasov

Anton Morozov

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From Irkutsk, Russia. His main profile shows him in military fatigues in what appears to be barracks. Photos include neo-Nazi imagery (burning an Israeli flag) and Eurasian symbols. He appears to be pictured with Zloy, above. Correction: Morozov denies this is him, and it’s entirely possible that it was a convenient juxtaposition with a lookalike.

Profile: Anton Morozov

Counter-Terror Operation in Donetsk

Following a late night session of the National Security Council which discussed anti-terrorism measures and the possibility of introducing a state of emergency, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov announced a counter-terrorist operation would begin in Sloviansk under the leadership of the Security Service (SBU). The operation is said to include units from all service branches in Ukraine.

What happened in Sloviansk?

Initially, Avakov stated that separatists had opened fire on special forces in the city. He then posted a notice to residents of the city to leave the city centre, stay at home, and avoid windows for their own safety. Eyewitnesses noted that the Russian tricolor had been also taken down from atop the city administration. Helicopters have been seen flying over the city, and separatists were said to primarily be guarding barricades erected outside the buildings they had occupied, and along the highway.

Riot police began by clearing a separatist checkpoint leading in to the city. The operation led to the death of two Ukrainian Security Service officers and nine wounded, said the Interior Minister. Acting president Tuchynov’s address to the nation identified an SBU officer as Alpha Group captain Hennadiy Bilichenko. The wounded included Ukrainian military who arrived in three armored personal carriers, according to eyewitnesses and officials. Casualties on the separatists’ side, however, were ‘unidentifiable’ but were said to include deaths, and that the support base of the rebels included 1,000 pro-Russian activists. Russian and Ukrainian news confirmed at least one separatist death in the operation, and Ukrainian military officials confirmed that the remaining gunmen had escaped into the forest.

According to multiple eyewitness reports covered by the Kyiv Post, the separatists instigated the shootout where upon Ukrainian officials approaching a suspect vehicle, four men in camouflage emerged and opened fire on Ukrainian soldiers. The car had a Poltava Oblast license plate, which was traced to the private security firm Yavir.

In the city, two were shot dead by an assailant in plain clothes, including a journalist, and another seriously wounded. Sky News correspondent Katie Stallard, who is in Sloviansk, said that civilians, including the elderly, were being used as human shields to protect pro-Russian forces Ukrainian security advances. Near the city, however, insurgents captured a truck carrying a shipment of rockets to the border.

Ukrainian MP Lesya Orobets has since stated that at least 10 separatists have been killed in clashes, citing 3 sources.

April 15 clashes

Ukrainian armored division near Sloviansk
Ukrainian armored division near Sloviansk

Following a direct message from acting defense minister Mykhailo Koval that Ukrainian troops are on full alert to carry out tasks , at 4am Kyiv time Interfax has reported that clashes have broken out on the outskirts of Sloviansk between separatists and what were described as men in black uniforms. Armored personnel carriers have been spotted in the area, and gunshots and explosions heard according to a representative of a self-defense group who spoke to the news service. The source also informs that the village council in Andreevka (outside of Sloviansk) was on fire, and shots were fired. A correspondent for TSN informs that shots were not heard, but there are burning tires. UAInfo has also reported that 10 Russian militants have been shot at a checkpoint in the region, though this is unconfirmed by other sources or if related to Orobets’ previous figure.

UNIANITAR-TASSand Kommersant have since reported that tanks and heavy military equipment have been seen en route to Sloviansk, with Kommersant providing photos. The information from ITAR-TASS comes from Russian separatist commander Ponomarev. In Kramatorsk,  RIA Novosti  citing witnesses has reported that armored divisions have also been seen.

Elsewhere in Donetsk region

Separatist activity has been documented in Donetsk (Regional admin. & MVS), Kramatorsk (seized city admin. & police & airport), Druzhkivka, Yenakiyevo (seized city admin.), Mariupol, Makiyivka (seized city admin.), Mariupol, Kostriantynivka, Ilovaysk, Horlivka (attempt to capture police), Dobropillya (attempt to capture police station), and Artemivsk.

The most notable action for the day happened in Mariupol, where the mayor’s office in the southern-Donetsk city was reportedly captured masked separatists this Sunday following a rally which attracted 1,000. Upon storming the building they removed the Ukrainian flag and hoisted both the flags of Russia and the Donetsk Republic. A huge barricade has since been constructed outside the building below a republican banner, while inactive police look on.

Motyl: Could Russia Occupy Ukraine?

Citing a 2008 study by US Army Major Glenn E. Kozelka and a 1995 RAND Corporation study by James Quinlivan, Motyl comes to the following conclusions when assessing troop requirements to occupy Ukraine in a military invasion scenario:

  • • In order to occupy Donetsk and Luhansk provinces alone, Russian would have to deploy somewhere between 26,702 and 133,514 troops.
  • • A “land bridge” from Crimea to Transnistria would mean occupying Kherson, Mykolaiv, and Odessa provinces—which would entail somewhere between 46,497 and 92,994 soldiers.
  • • Occupying all seven southeastern provinces would require between 118,536 (26,702 for Donetsk and Luhansk and 91,834 for the others) and 317,182 (133,514 for Donetsk and Luhansk and 183,668 for the others).
  • • If Russia decides to conquer all of Ukraine, it would need an additional 548,587 troops—for a grand total of 667,123 to 865,769 troops.
  • • Kyiv city and Kyiv Province alone would require 90,676 occupying soldiers.

In light of Russia’s estimated current force levels on Ukraine’s borders (50,000–80,000), the best Russia could do under low- and medium-violence assumptions would be to invade a few southeastern provinces. If those assumptions are changed to medium or high, only one or two provinces would be within its grasp. These conclusions assume that an invasion would entail no force deterioration as a result of the Ukrainian army’s resistance. Change that assumption, and Russia’s capacity to occupy southeastern Ukraine declines even more.

Dr. Alexander Motyl is a professor of political science at Rutgers-Newark. A specialist on Ukraine, Russia, and the USSR

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Felgenhauer: Russia’s Window of Opportunity in Ukraine

If Putin decides to send in his troops, he has a narrow window in which to act. The winter of 2014 in Russia and Ukraine was relatively mild with little snow, while the spring is early and warm. The soil is drying rapidly, meaning that it will soon be possible to move heavy vehicles off of highways and into fields in southern areas of Ukraine close to the Black and Azov Seas. A key date is April 1, which marks the beginning of the Russia’s spring conscript call-up, when some 130,000 troops drafted a year earlier will have to be mustered out as replacements arrive. This would leave the Russian airborne troops, marines, and army brigades with many conscripts that have served half a year or not at all, drastically reducing battle readiness. The better-trained one-year conscripts can be kept in the ranks for a couple of months but no longer. Otherwise they’ll start demanding to be sent home, and morale will slip. As a result, Russia’s conventional military will regain reasonable battle-readiness only around August or September 2014, giving the Ukrainians ample time to get their act together.

Ukraine has scheduled a national presidential election for May 25 that may further legitimize the regime the Kremlin hates and wants to overthrow. The Kremlin may find it hard to resist the temptation to attack Ukraine and “liberate” the south and east while Russia is ready, the Ukrainian military weak, and the regime in Kiev unstable. Such a move could lead to more Western sanctions, but this risk maybe dwarfed by the vision of a major geostrategic victory seemingly at hand.

The window of opportunity for an invasion will open during the first weeks of April and close somewhere around the middle of May. During his long rule Vladimir Putin has generally shown himself to be a shrewd and cautious operator, but his actions during the Ukrainian crisis have been rash. So far his daring has paid off. This, unfortunately, is precisely what could trigger more bold moves down the road.

Paul Felgenhauer is a military analyst and journalist based in Moscow

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An Open-Source Map of the Russian Occupation

The following map is an open source project designed to help spread accurate, timely information about the Russian occupation of Crimea. Data is drawn from various open and private sources. Some precise locations are unknown, and the status of many sites remain uncertain and in flux. Updates are made frequently. This map is created and maintained by “Paul Szegedin” (a pseudonym) and is also found at occupiedcrimea.blogspot.com. He can be reached at atszegedin74@gmail.com should readers be able to provide information or offer additional aid to the project.

Ukrainian sites are marked in Blue, Russian sites in Red. Abandoned military sites are in Green.

Things are beginning to unravel in Crimea. Russian occupation of key Ukraine military sites is moving forward in a haphazard, disorganized manner, by a combination of masked Russian Federation troops and mobs of local, Moscow-loyal irregulars. As of 19 March, the Ukraine Navy Headquarters in Sevastapol was captured and the anti-submarine corvette Ternopil was under blockade. Russians are throwing grenades at the ship to create an atmosphere of intense psychological pressure under a deadline to surrender the ship.

Late 19 March the Ukraine National Security Council announced that troops would be withdrawn to mainland Ukraine. It is important to note that Ukraine itself, three weeks after the overthrow of Yanukovych, barely has a central government. Many of the officers of the military and border control were loyal to the corrupt regime, and are steadily being bribed with cash offers up to $200,000 to defect to Russia. A disorganized, catastrophic retreat and loss of Ukrainian Naval and Air Force assets in Crimea looms. Billions of dollars worth of ships and aircraft are about to be captured.

Aksyonov Says Crimeans Will Face Mandatory Conscription into Russian Military

On March 18th the self-declared prime minister of Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov, declared that in the coming spring young Ukrainians, Russians, and Tatars of Crimea will be drafted into the Russian army. In Russia, conscription is mandatory for all male citizens age 18-27.

“After becoming a part of  Crimea, Crimea will operate under the Russian Constitution. Crimea will also fall under the jurisdiction of other Russian laws. Among these will be enlisting into the Russian army […] conscripts will serve across the country, including in Dagestan and Chechnya and the North Caucasus in general.”
– Sergei Aksyonov

Earlier in the day it was announced that Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov had died.

The prospect of muslim Crimean Tatars, who make up 15% of the Crimean population, being forced to go to war in Chechnya may become a highly flammable situation.  Crimean Tatars maintain friendly relations with neighboring muslim republics in Russia including Chechnya. Tatars largely boycotted the internationally unrecognized referendum. Deploying conscripts, which also would by nature include a large Ukrainian contingent against the Ukrainian armed forces in a potential conflict would also pose conflict.

Aksyonov was installed as the self-declared prime minister of Crimea in a coup d’état. On February 27 the Crimean legislature was occupied by  pro-Russian forces armed with assault rifles and rocket launchers who identified themselves as members of Crimea’s “self-defense forces”, all of which who, according to Aksyonov, are directly under his control. Following a closed door election under the presence of the gunmen, Aksyonov was named prime minister, allegedly with the blessing of deposed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. Aksyonov is known for his shadowy past and alleged involvement in organized crime in the region where he earned the nickname “The Goblin.”