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Título: A Fragile Opportunity: The 2013 Iranian Election and its Consequences
Autor: Ali Ansari

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Royal United Services Institute

Ukraine Military Dispositions
The Military Ticks Up while the Clock Ticks Down
Igor Sutyagin and Michael Clarke

On 2 April, NATO’s Supreme Commander in Europe General Philip M
Breedlove made it clear that the Alliance is about to announce a series of
military measures to demonstrate that it is still a working military command
structure capable of defending all its external borders. These measures are
designed both to reassure NATO’s eastern members and to send a loud
message to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin that military adventures in the
former Soviet space would create an even more dangerous crisis for Europe
than the seizure of Crimea. No one, including Putin, knows what he may do
next as the situation changes. The crisis in Ukraine raised the Crimea issue for
him both as a difficult problem as well as an opportunity, and he apparently
chose to seize the opportunity without much anticipation of the cost.
For that reason alone, NATO officials have something to worry about.
Alongside the political initiatives to create a negotiated outcome and the
sanctions to apply pressure on the Russian leadership, there is a military
dynamic that is becoming more worrying and urgent. Russian troop
deployments – amounting to nearly 50,000 personnel – are noted in Figure
1, with their reserve elements behind them. Ukrainian troop dispositions
as of a month ago are illustrated in Figure 2, though this analysis is now
becoming outdated since it is known that some Ukrainian forces have begun
to take up positions in eastern Ukraine (see Box 1), drawing away from such
a heavy concentration in the west. They appear to be doing this covertly,
however, and it is not currently possible to locate all of their new positions.
Several trends are evident in these two diagrams. In Figure 1, the composite
military formations ‘Klimovo’, ‘L’gov’, ‘Belgorod’ and possibly ‘Polessya’ are
the most significant. These forces stand opposite Kiev and the regions to its
east. Their disposition holds the capital and the Kiev government at risk in
any attack and compels Ukraine to keep a significant proportion of its forces
in that area and therefore not available to operate further east. The military

April 2014

Ukraine Military Dispositions

groups ‘Taganrog’ and ‘Crimea’ are the other key forces that would have the
potential to open a secure land corridor into Crimea from Russia north of
the Sea of Azov. Such a corridor would have far greater capacity in terms of
transport and logistics than the tenuous link across the Kerch Strait at the
south of the sea.
Box 1: Possible Ukrainian Troop Movements
It is apparent that the Ukrainian military is responding to the Russian build up.
To defend against the Russian military sub-groups ‘Klimovo’ and, possibly, ‘L’gov’, there
are some signs that Ukrainians have relocated the following formations:
• 30th Mechanised Brigade (item #5 in Figure 2)
• 95th Air Mobile Brigade (#12)
• 72nd Mechanised Brigade (#16)
• 3rd Special Operations (Spetsnaz) Regiment (#23)
In addition, Ukraine has mobilised and increased the alert status of the 169th Training
Centre (roughly equivalent to a reduced-strength motorised division, north-east of #3).
To defend against the sub-groups ‘Rostov-Don’ and ‘Taganrog’, there are also signs that
Ukraine has moved the following formations to Donetsk Oblast:
• 25th Airborne Brigade (#26)
• And, possibly, components of the 17th Tank Brigade (#27).
To defend against sub-group ‘Crimea’, Ukraine has moved these formations to Kherson
• Components of the 17th Tank Brigade (#27)
• 79th Air Mobile Brigade (#29)
• Components of the 28th Mechanised Brigade (#30).
To prevent the advance of Russian troops from Transnistria, these forces may have
been relocated:
• Components of 28th Mechanised Brigade (#30)
• Components of 80th Air Mobile Regiment (#8).
Finally, to defend against sub-group ‘Boguchar’, this formation may have been moved
to Luhansk Oblast:
• 93rd Mechanised Brigade (#24).

The Ukrainian army numbers around 70,000, but it is poorly equipped and
would struggle to mobilise fully. In the event of a military clash, its formations
would be locally outnumbered and certainly outgunned by Russian forces
and their reserves. As Figure 2 indicates, they cannot quickly deploy in great


































Figure 1: Potential Russian Military Moves into Ukraine and Known
numbers too far out of their western dispositions to do much about any
Russian military incursions into the south-east of the country.
Importantly, most of the Russian units described in Figure 1 are at readiness
– not on exercise – held in a pre-combat state that can only be maintained
for a limited period. It is reported that these units include cyber capabilities
and – tellingly – field hospitals among their forward formations. General
Breedlove estimates that they would only need to fight for three to five days
to accomplish initial objectives of a limited nature.
Four Military Scenarios
These troop dispositions suggest four military scenarios that now have to be
factored into the political calculations.
The first scenario is that these dispositions are no more than muscle-flexing
on the part of Moscow to persuade Ukraine and other powers that they
must acquiesce to the seizure of Crimea quickly, or face something worse.
In this scenario, Russian forces would be stood down quite quickly once the
political process has given Putin the recognition of his fait accompli over the
Crimea. But the probability of this scenario is diminished by the fact that
Ministry of the Interior troops have been moved to high alert, troops whose
purpose is the pacification of occupied populations (see the Appendix for a
fuller discussion of their role).
The second scenario posits that Russian forces would covertly support, or
even engineer, civil unrest throughout south-east Ukraine and use that as
a pretext for opening the secure land corridor to Crimea through Donetsk,

See note in







[e, f]







Military Group






















Chernihiv Military Dispositions








Ukraine Military Dispositions

Figure 2: Ukraine’s Ground Forces, March 2014.
Zaporizhia and Kherson oblasts. Ukraine would pay another territorial price
of a further Russian illegal annexation.
The third scenario is that unrest and separatist pressures in south and eastern
Ukraine, real or manufactured, may present a dangerous, but nevertheless
tempting opportunity to split the country in two, south and east of the
Dnieper River. Presidential elections in Ukraine on 25 May, particularly if they


Ukraine Military Dispositions

are accompanied by some sort of shadow election for a ‘President of SouthEast Ukraine’, could spark the civil tension that might offer such a dangerous
temptation. Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina, while it lasted as
a secessionist entity, provides a historical parallel and there is evidence that
Moscow is even encouraging the Serbs who once proclaimed their secession
from Bosnia to voice their support for similar Russian separatist demands in
The fourth scenario would involve Russian troops executing a move of
grand strategy, creating a western corridor from Transnistria in Moldova
into Crimea through Odessa and Mykolaiv Oblasts, which would encompass
the historic city of Odessa itself. This would be a more tenuous link than
an eastern corridor, but it would bring a Russian ethnic community from
Transnistria into a continuous corridor to the Russian homeland. Whether it
would be sustainable in regions that are less than a third Russian-speaking
is debateable, but it would constitute a bargaining chip of some importance
if there were any initial acquiescence to it. It would likely only make sense in
a total campaign to divide the country into a south and south-east, annexed
and/or controlled by Russia on the one hand and a western rump governed
from a vulnerable capital in Kiev on the other. Such an arc of ‘new Russian’
territory transforming the map of Black Sea Europe would be a fundamental
challenge to the European order. It would represent a land grab from
another independent European state – Moldova – and invite inter-communal
violence that would affect the stability of even Romania, a NATO member.
This scenario would represent a completely new departure in European
security politics, more serious than almost anything seen during the Cold
War, let alone since that time.
Geopolitical Realities
There are some stark geopolitical realities that make several of these
scenarios more plausible – incentivising aggressive action by Putin – even if
they are not so far the most likely.
The first is that Russia’s Gazprom has taken control of all Ukraine’s off-shore
oil and gas fields in the Sea of Azov. Previously, European companies had
been promised licenses to operate in these areas, so Gazprom could face
some legal challenges. Nevertheless, an eastern corridor into Crimea from
the Russian homeland would cut Ukraine off from the Sea of Azov and make
it part of Russian territory. The long-running dispute over the Kerch Strait
would also be removed by such an annexation of territory.
Crimea is dependent on Ukraine for 85 per cent of its food supplies. Crimea
continues to be supplied from the rest of Ukraine, but road transportation


Ukraine Military Dispositions

currently takes around two days from mainland Ukraine to the Crimean
capital of Simferopol with many border checks (established by the Crimean
authorities) involved. The ferry across the Kerch Strait can only handle 400
people or 60 vehicles per hour, while the Port of Kerch has very poor facilities
and no refrigeration for food and perishables. In this situation, food supplies
in Crimea are already under strain and cannot be easily met by air and sea
supply from Russia. The opening of a secure land corridor would mitigate the
problem immediately.
Military Imports
Of Russia’s total imports, only 4.4 per cent come from Ukraine, but they are
vital for some key elements of Russia’s military establishment. Some 30 per
cent of Ukrainian military exports to Russia are unique and cannot currently
be substituted by Russian production. Russia’s heavy intercontinental
ballistic missiles (the SS-18 ICBMs) are designed and produced by the
Yuzhmash combine in Dnepropetrovsk. SS-18s are regularly checked and
maintained by Yuzhmash specialists. Two other strategic missile systems –
the SS-25 (RT-2PM Topol) and the SS-19 (UR-100 NUTTKh) – are designed and
produced by Russian-based enterprises, but use guidance systems designed
and produced in Ukraine by the Kharkiv-based Khartron Scientific-Industrial
Combine. The SS-18, SS-19 and SS-25 currently make up some 51 per cent of
Russia’s overall strategic nuclear-weapons inventory and over 80 per cent of
that of Russia’s Strategic Rocket Forces specifically. In addition, some 20 per
cent of the natural uranium currently consumed by Russia’s nuclear industry,
both for civilian and military purposes, comes from Zholti Vody in Ukraine.
Since Soviet days, Russia’s ship-building programme has heavily depended on
gas-turbine engines and gears produced in Mykolaiv, Ukraine. While Russian
industry has learned how to build large gas-turbine engines since then, it
cannot yet master manufacturing the gears for them and Russia requires
Ukrainian-produced gears for 60 per cent of the surface combatants planned
for its navy.
The Russian air force is also critically dependent on the Ukrainian defence
industry. Ukrainian enterprises produce the R-27 (the AA-10 Alamo) mediumrange air-to-air missile (AAM), as well as the seekers for the R-73 (AA-11
Archer) short-range AAM – which, between them, represent the majority of
anti-air missiles operated by Russian fighters. Many of the auxiliary systems
– from hydraulics to drogue parachutes – for the Russian Su-27, Su-30 and
Su-35 fighters, as well as for Russia’s newest Su-34, are also produced in
Ukraine. In Zaporizhia, the Motor-Sich plant has a major role in Russian
aviation. Motor-Sich produces jet engines for a variety of Russian transport
jet aircraft, including the An-124 Ruslan, the largest Russian transport
aircraft, as well as for some combat and training aircraft. The plant also
produces engines for all Russian combat and transport helicopters, as well


Ukraine Military Dispositions

as auxiliary power units for all Russian helicopters and many types of combat
and transport aircraft.
Russia has made a vast effort to reduce its dependence upon Motor-Sich
engines, but the evidence is that it cannot produce enough engines to meet
its own demand – to say nothing of an ambitious rearmament programme,
which looks as if it will require at least 3,000 helicopter engines in a two-tothree year period to equip Russian forces.
Russia’s dependence on Motor-Sich also has the effect of restricting its own
military and aviation exports. For the period 2013–16, Russia has secured
contracts for the delivery of over 260 new helicopters around the world, all
of which are equipped with either main or auxiliary engines supplied by the
Ukrainian company. On 28 March, the state-owned company that controls all
Ukrainian armaments and military-related production – Ukroboronprom –
announced a freeze on all future supplies to Russia. The effects of this freeze
on Russian military production as well as its export potential will certainly be
felt in the medium term, if not immediately.
This military dependence on Ukrainian production could be read in one
of two ways. We might assume that it increases Putin’s incentive to find
a peaceful resolution in his relationship with Ukraine, so that supplies are
not interrupted and Russia has more time to decrease its critical military
dependencies on Ukrainian production. In light of the Crimea takeover, that
dependence will not likely be relieved quickly by the Ukrainians.
Equally, however, it could be argued that since most of the military plants in
question are in south and east Ukraine, the temptation to follow the third
and fourth scenarios will be all the greater. To suggest these scenarios for
the sake of capturing the production at these various plants would be a very
nineteenth-century way of looking at a twenty-first century relationship.
However, even that cannot be ruled out in current circumstances.
The Next Month
The month of May will be a critical time. Until Ukraine’s elections take place
in May, the government in Kiev lacks legitimacy, and that fact continues to
support Russia’s patterns of behaviour in arguing that it is protecting Russian
speakers in Crimea from violence. If the elections go well in May, then Putin’s
claims to be acting for humanitarian motives will be severely diminished.
On the other hand, if the elections do not go well and are accompanied
by competing shadow elections in other parts of the country, the resulting
confusion and even violence may present further, albeit dangerous,
opportunities to strengthen Russia’s position around the Black Sea. In
addition, Russian troops, at readiness now for over two to three weeks, will
be approaching eight weeks at readiness by early to mid May; at this point,


Ukraine Military Dispositions

combat effectiveness tends to wear off. Troops can only be held at readiness
for so long before systems have to be replaced and rotated and inefficiencies
set in. Not least, the rotation of conscript troops in Russia’s forces is already
underway from 1 April to 15 July, and the disruptive effects of this may also
create a substantial loss of combat effectiveness. Russian commanders will
be aware that they will have to decide to use their troops or stand them
down sometime before the summer.
What we have set out here are scenarios based on current knowledge. They
are not predictions nor are they a complete picture of a complex and dynamic
situation. Nevertheless, the military dispositions of Ukrainian and Russian
forces are becoming more relevant to the political equation, and for a range
of reasons they may reduce the time in which politics and negotiation can
mitigate the effects of this crisis.
Dr Igor Sutyagin is a Research Fellow in Russian Studies at RUSI.
Professor Michael Clarke is the Director-General of RUSI.


Ukraine Military Dispositions


The Russian Ministry of Defence troop deployment consists of four groups
and two other supposed (but unconfirmed) groupings. Troops are mainly
organised in battalion tactical groups (BTGr). The difference between a
Russian BTGr and a British battlegroup is that a BTGr represents a battalion
supplemented by non-organic elements (usually a tank company and an
artillery battery) attached to the battalion and subordinated to the battalion’s
commanding officer. A battlegroup, meanwhile, although flexible in its
organisation, is traditionally a battalion with one of its sub-units substituted
by that of another unit, with various other support elements attached (for
example, an armoured infantry battalion with a tank squadron instead of
one of its organic infantry companies).
Northern Groupa
Klimovo Sub-Group
2 x BTGr of the 51st Guards Parachute Regiment/106th Guards
Airborne Division
1 x artillery battalion of the 1182nd Guards Airborne Artillery
Regiment/106th Guards Airborne Division
6th Tank Brigade
1 x battalion of the 2nd Spetsnaz GRU Brigade
L’gov Sub-Group
2 x BTGr of the 1st Guards Motor Rifle Regiment/2nd Guards
Tamanskaya Motor Rifle Division
1 x self-propelled artillery battalion of the 147th Guards SelfPropelled Artillery Regiment/2nd Guards Tamanskaya Motor Rifle
13th Guards Tank Regiment/4th Guards Kantemirovskaya Tank
1 x battalion of the 2nd Spetsnaz Brigade
15th Guards Motor Rifle Regiment/2nd Guards Tamanskaya Motor
Rifle Division
1 x self-propelled artillery battalion of the 147th Guards SelfPropelled Artillery Regiment/2nd Guards Tamanskaya Division
12th Guards Tank Regiment/4th Guards Kantemirovskaya Tank
1 x self-propelled artillery battalion of the 275th Guards SelfPropelled Artillery Regiment/4th Guards Kantemirovskaya Tank



Ukraine Military Dispositions


Belgorod Group
27th Guards Motor Brigade
1 x self-propelled artillery battalion of the 147th Guards SelfPropelled Artillery Regiment/2nd Guards Tamanskaya Division
1 x BTGr of the 15th Motor Rifle Brigadec
3 x BTGrs of the 104th Guards (234th Guards?) Air Assault
Regiment/76th Guards Air Assault Division
1 x BTGr of the 51st Guards Airborne Regiment/106th Guards
Airborne Division
1 x BTGr of the 137th Guards Airborne Regiment/106th Guards
Airborne Division
(Probably) 1 or 2 x BTGr of the 234th Guards Air Assault
Regiment/76th Guards Air Assault Division
2 x battalions of the 16th Spetsnaz GRU Brigade


2 x BTGr of the 23rd Guards Motor Rifle Brigadee
1 x self-propelled artillery battalion of the 275th Guards SelfPropelled Artillery Regiment/4th Guards Kantemirovskaya Tank


Donbass Group
Boguchar Sub-Groupf
2 x BTGr of the 20th Guards Motor Rifle brigade
1 x battalion of the 10th Spetsnaz GRU brigade
Rostov-Don Sub-Groupg
2 x BTGr of the 137th Guards Paratroop Regiment/106th Guards
Airborne Division
1 x self-propelled artillery battalion of the 1182nd Guards Airborne
Artillery Regiment/106th Guards Airborne Division
1 x battalion of the 22nd Guards Spetsnaz GRU Brigade
2 x battalions of the 943rd Rocket-Artillery (MLRS) Regiment
56th Air Assault Brigade



Ukraine Military Dispositions


Tavriya Group
Taganrog Sub-Group
2 x BTGr of the 205th Motor Rifle Brigade
1 x or 2x BTGr of the 98th Guards Airborne Division
1 x battalion of the 346th Spetsnaz GRU Brigade
1 x battalion of the 25th Spetsnaz GRU Regiment
Crimea Sub-Group
810th Marines Brigade
31st Guards Air Assault Brigade
1 x BTGr of the 18th Guards Motor Rifle Brigade
1 x BTGr of the 15th Motor Brigade
1 x battalion of the 943rd Rocket-Artillery (MLRS) Regiment
1 x battalion of the 22nd Guards Spetsnaz GRU Brigade
1 x battalion of the 3rd Guards Spetsnaz GRU Brigade
1 x battalion of the 45th Spetsnaz Regiment of Airborne Troops
33rd Mountain Infantry Brigade
34th Mountain Infantry Brigade
7th Air Assault Division





Transnistria Group
Plans to use these units in the prospective operation against Ukraine are
questionable and are not confirmed by any reliable sources.
82nd Motor Rifle Battalion
113th Motor Rifle Battalion
2 x battalions of the 3rd Guards Spetsnaz GRU Brigade



Polessya Group (Belarus)
There have been reports of the presence of up to 1,800 servicemen (a full
regiment) of the 137th Guards Paratroop Regiment from the 106th Guards
Airborne Division in plain clothes on the territory of Belarus. But this is
implausible, given that it is known that the troops of the 106th are deployed
One cannot exclude the possibility that personnel of the 234th Guards Air
Assault Regiment (or possibly the 104th Guards Air Assault Regiment) of the
76th Guards Air Assault Division, in plain clothes, might be present in Belarus.

Ukraine Military Dispositions

However, the presence of these troops is uncertain, while plans to use these
units in the prospective operation against Ukraine are highly questionable
and have not been confirmed by reliable sources.
Ministry of Defence troops in areas adjacent to the border are partially located
beyond a 50-kilometre zone from the border itself, which is still within an hour’s
reach of the Ukrainian territory. Any calculation of the number of Russian
troops near the Ukrainian border depends on the counting method used. One
approach is to tally manoeuvre units alone, that is, those combat units directly
participating in operations, such as infantry, tank, special operations and
artillery. This approach provides an estimate of approximately 48,500 troops.
The alternative approach is to consider all combat-support units (including
electronic warfare, communications and engineers) and rear support units
(including transportation, ammunition supply and so on). This approach
provides an estimate of approximately 92–94,000 troops.
Since mid-March, high levels of activity among the Russian Military Air
Transport Command’s transport aircraft have been detected in areas adjacent
to the Russo–Ukrainian border. The second-largest planes in the Russian fleet
– An-22 Antey turboprop aircraft, designed to transport heavy armoured
vehicles – are also participating in transportation operations. This level of
activity is unprecedented in exercises and strongly suggests that these planes
are ferrying supplies and equipment to troop concentrations – a clear sign of
the seriousness of Russian intentions.
When Russian Minister of Defence Sergei Shoigu was called by US Secretary
of Defense Chuck Hagel on 20 March, he reassured his US colleague that
Russian military activity near the Ukrainian border represented no more
than military exercises – but was unable to provide information on their
planned duration. This is a clear sign that the Russian military machine
is currently on a war-footing; further, the minister of defence has been
bypassed, with the General Staff planning all operations and serving as the
Supreme Commander’s HQ, as is war-time practice. (According to the Russian
constitution, the president is the supreme commander of the armed forces.)
Troops of the Ministry of Interior
There are also reports that troops of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs
attached to the Central Regional Command of Internal Troops have been
ordered to increase their readiness. This is a worrying sign, as the war-time
task of troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs is to pacify populations
in occupied territory. The raised readiness of Russian Ministry of Internal
Affairs troops could therefore indicate the Kremlin’s preparations to actually
invade Ukraine – and to take measures to establish and maintain control of
the occupied Ukrainian territories.


Ukraine Military Dispositions


The troops of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs attached to the Central
Regional Command of Internal Troops (the Central European part of Russia)
Operational units:

12th Division
55th Division
95th Division
Separate Operational Division ‘Dzerzhinskiy’
21st Operational Special Purpose Brigade
5 x motor battalions.

Special operations units (battalion-sized):
• 25th Special Operations Detachment ‘Mercury’
• 33rd Special Operations Detachment ‘Peresvet’.
Internal troop divisions are manned by approximately 10,000 servicemen
with armoured personnel carriers, artillery units, and around one battalion
of tanks each.
Notes and References
a. A relocation of Russian troops closer to the Russo–Ukrainian border was detected in
this Group’s area by Ukrainian observers. The 13th Guards Tank Regiment supposedly
relocated to concentrate on the unused airfield near the village of Sachkovichi.
b. The 13th Guards Tank Regiment had moved closer to the border from the Reserves of
Belgorod Group by 28 March.
c. One BTGr of the 15th Motor Rifle Brigade previously in Belgorod Group had relocated to
Donbass Group near Rostov-na-Donu and then withdrawn back to Samara by 1 April.
d. The 13th Guards Tank Regiment had moved closer to the border from the Reserves of
the Belgorod Group by 28 March.
e. One BTGr of the 23rd Guards Motor Rifle Brigade, previously in Belgorod Group, had
withdrawn to Samara by 1 April.
f. The troops of Boguchar Sub-Group (deployed near Ukraine’s Luhansk Oblast) had
reportedly moved further away from the border by 29 March, according to Ukrainian
g. One BTGr of the 15th Motor Rifle Brigade, previously in Belgorod Group, had relocated
to Donbass Group near Rostov-na-Donu and withdrawn to Samara by 1 April.

Royal United Services Institute for
Defence and Security Studies
Whitehall, London SW1A 2ET, UK

The views expressed in this paper
are the authors’ alone, and do not
represent the views of RUSI.



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