MOSCOW (Reuters) – Satellite images show Russia has moved some of its military equipment that was deployed near Ukraine, but other hardware has arrived and Moscow still has a lot of forces and equipment near its ex-Soviet neighbour, a private U.S. company said on Thursday.
Russia on Tuesday announced a partial pullback of its forces near Ukraine that have fuelled fears of a looming invasion, but Western countries warned on Wednesday that there was a growing – not reduced – Russian military presence.
Moscow denies planning to invade.
The images released by U.S.-based Maxar Technologies, which has been tracking the build-up of Russian forces for weeks, could not be independently verified by Reuters. The images showed locations in Belarus, western Russia and annexed Crimea on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
In Crimea, from where Russia has shown videos of it pulling out tanks and military equipment, Maxar pointed to armoured vehicles positioned at the Yevpatoria railyard that could be preparing to depart.
Troops and equipment remained deployed, however, at other sites on the peninsula that Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014, including the Opuk training area, and sites at Lake Donuzlav and Novoozernoye, it said.
In Belarus, where Russia is holding huge exercises, Maxar pointed to a new military pontoon bridge over the Pripyat river less than six kilometres from the border with Ukraine, and a large new field hospital at one training site.
At an airfield in Belarus, a new unit of nearly 20 attack helicopters had been deployed, but significant troop and ground forces units recently deployed there had departed and were unaccounted for, Maxar said.
Troops and armoured equipment were still deployed at other sites and were training. Most of the equipment and troop housing area that had been present near Rechitsa in southeast Belarus has departed and was unaccounted for, it said, adding that a military convoy was seen heading west.
(Reporting by Andrew Osborn and Tom Balmforth; Editing by Toby Chopra and Alex Richardson)