Russia has moved warplanes to Crimea and bases near Ukraine to an extent greater than has previously been disclosed, adding to its capability for political intimidation or military intervention, according to commercial satellite photos of areas being used for the military buildup.
The photos, which were reviewed by the Wall Street Journal, show Su-30 fighters lined up on a runway at an air base in Crimea. The aircraft, which are shown in a satellite photo from April 16, hadn’t been there in late March.
Other Russian military units on the Crimean peninsula include airborne troops, motorized rifle and armored units, attack helicopters, smoke generators, reconnaissance drones, jamming equipment and a military hospital, the photos indicate.
Those forces and the stationing of Su-34, Su-30, Su-27, Su-25 and Su-24 aircraft elsewhere in the region, which are also depicted in the photos, have strengthened Moscow’s political leverage to coerce Ukraine, current and former officials say.
“They have appropriately deployed the various elements of airpower that would be needed to establish air superiority over the battlefield and directly support the ground troops,” said Philip Breedlove, a retired U.S. Air Force general who served as the top NATO military commander when Russian forces seized Crimea and intervened in eastern Ukraine in 2014.
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