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The Hammer and the Sickle - Potential Russian Pincer-Offensive

For the past weeks the social media has been filled with sightings of Russian troops moving towards the regions bordering Ukraine. The buildup was initially called an exercise, but in the most recent press releases Kremlin has been rather clear that the troops have been deployed there as an operational deployment, if Russia feels a need to act upon any real or imaginary escalation in Donbass. The troops will stay in the region as long as President Putin sees it necessary.

Russia Serna-Class landing crafts of the Caspian flotilla


The initial buildup was focused on occupied Crimea that has so far received an additional VDV airborne regiment, multiple mechanized battalion tactical groups and heavy artillery units equipped with at least the enormous 240mm 2S4 Tulpan mortars. 

Additional trains and convoys have been spotted in Rostov, Krasnodar and Voronezh regions. The Russian controlled Belarusian military has also been alerted and multiple, very Russian looking units are operating in the southern part of the country. Unlike the typical training deployments, these convoys have had a larger portion of supply vehicles, including fuel tankers. The main battle tanks, predominantly T-72B3:s deployed have had their external fuel tanks fitted and they more frequently than normally carry dozer blades and mine plows.

Russian T-72B3 with external fuel tanks and a dozer blade


The troops have been gathered all the way from the Central Military Districts Siberian units and some trains are on the way from Arkhangelsk and Murmansk in the Arctic. In addition to the troops deploying close to Ukraine, the Russian ICBM TELs carrying the intercontinental nuclear missiles have been dispersed to the vast Siberian taiga to provide a nuclear umbrella for any upcoming operations.

One surprising location where at least two Russian battalions have been spotted is the port city of Yeisk in Krasnodar oblast. The city is located on the southern shore of the Azov Sea, right across the Ukrainian city of Mariupol.




On 8th of April the Russian Ministry of Defense announced that over ten vessels of the Caspian fleet would transit from the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea. The Volga-Don canal route takes this flotilla of gunboats, landing crafts and corvettes directly into the Azov Sea, less than a 100km form the Yeisk docks, that are well suited to loading all sorts of watercraft. The flotilla would be able to cross the 50 km stretch of water to Mariupol in less than an hour, bypassing the heavily fortified Ukrainian defense lines east of the city.

Russian beachhead on the northern shore of the Azov Sea would simultaneously threaten the rear of both the defenders of the Mariupol sector and the troops guarding the narrow approaches from Crimea to the Ukrainian mainland.

Another concentration of Russian reinforcements has been spotted building a temporary base of operations in the Voronetzh oblast, roughly 180 km from the Ukrainian border. The base has at least 600 vehicles with heavy artillery and electronic warfare support. Together with the forces of and in Belarus, this multi-brigade force threatens to bypass the Ukrainian forces facing off with the Russian forces already in Donbass. It looks like the Russian high command is setting up a pincer move that would force the well entrenched Ukrainian defenders to react and move. 

The maneuver warfare this would result in, is something that the Russian forces have trained a lot in the recent years and their new command and communications infrastructure allows a tight integration of different components of their force, while the extensive electronic warfare capabilities could severely hamper the Ukrainian response. 

If successful the pincer movement would either force the Ukrainian army surrounding the Russian control areas in Donbass into full retreat towards west or to their complete destruction. It would hardly be the first massive encirclement operation in the Ukrainian steppes.



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