Wow! Now things look very serious indeed. RT reports that Russia is starting military maneuvers involving not one, but TWO military districts plus the Air Force:
Russia has begun extensive military exercises in Ukrainian border area following the escalation of violence in eastern Ukraine.
“The order to use force against civilians has already been given, and if this military machine is not stopped, the amount of casualties will only grow,” Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said during an official meeting in Moscow.
“War games by NATO in Poland and the Baltic states are not helping the normalization of the situation. We are forced to react to the situation.”
Shoigu said that the drills involve march and deployment exercises by forces in the southern and western military districts, and separate Air Force maneuvers.
Shoigu said that 11,000 Ukrainian soldiers, 160 tanks, 230 armored carriers and at least 150 artillery pieces are involved in the operation against anti-Kiev activists.
“National guard units and Right Sector extremists are fighting against the peaceful population, as well as a volunteer Donbass ‘anti-terrorist’ unit. Also security and internal forces transferred to Lugansk and Donetsk from other areas of the country are suppressing dissent,” the minister said.
He added that Ukrainian sabotage units have been deployed near the Russian border.
In contrast, Shoigu said that the pro-Russian self-defense units number about 2,000 and have about 100 guns between them, which have mostly been taken from local police stations.
I did not expect such a dramatic and rapid escalation and if I was on the side of the forces currently attacking Slaviansk I would get really frightened. The size of the force Shoigu has just mobilized is huge, potentially enough to fight a major war on a full continental front. It also includes the best and most powerful and battle-hardened Russian units from the southern military district.
Now, this does not at all mean that the FULL forces of the military districts have been mobilized or are moving. But that the Russian high command can draw whatever units it deems necessary from these two districts (a misnomer, by the way, they are now called “strategic directions”). One thing is certain, not even during the Chechen wars or 08.08.08 did Russia assemble such a powerful military force. I am frankly astounded that they would make such a decision and announce it publicly even though the Ukrainian attack so far has been, frankly, minimal and lame.
Also, notice that unlike Putin, Shoigu is not talking about “consequences” for “individuals” but about stopping the Ukrainian military machine! He also presents this not a a choice for Russia, but as something Russia is forced to do. He clearly knows something we don’t. Maybe a NATO move in western Ukraine? It seems totally crazy to me that NATO would do that, but how can I otherwise explain the huge size of the force Russia has just put on alert?! You don’t need the resources of two of you most powerful strategic directions to deal with 5’000+ SBU/RS thugs? For that a single ODON division would be plenty.
I am getting very worried by this and I hope that this is a mistranslation or some kind of misunderstanding on RT’s part (stuff happens). But if not, then this is very, very serious.
I will try my best to figure out what is going on.
Stay tuned (and say prayer for peace), and let’s hope that things calm down.
UPDATE @ 1522Z: 5 people reported killed in Slaviansk. Ukies have entered Slaviansk, there are combats inside the city. The cellular network has been disconnected.