A few days ago, the Ukrainian Military Intelligence released a map of Russians BTGs building up near the border. Dara took a stab at it and shared some valuable thoughts.
Now I would like to offer a few cents along with some of my BTG counts.
The map is divided into four operational directions (OD) of which three are named: Orlov-Voronezh, Don, and Crimean. Some forces were placed in Belarus, which is the fourth OD and let’s call it just that: Belarusian OD. Let’s start with this one.
1. Belarusian OD: Elements deployed there include three VDV (airborne divisions) along with the 2nd Motor Rifle Division of the 1st GTA. Why did they place all of these units there? No idea. Although the text above the units says that these formations were deployed to Belarus during Zapad-2021, I think it is too far-fetched at this point to assume they’ll be again deployed there now. Also, at present, there are no indications of any Russian units on the move towards Belarus. Nevertheless, if the 2nd MRD is to go there, I expect it to happen relatively soon.
Ukrainians don’t provide a BTG count for this OD (wonder why) but I assess the 2nd MRD fields 6 BTGs (assume 2 BTGs per regiment). VDV is an open question. The VDV force in the Western MD (three airborne divisions) has some 17 BTGs, but a colleague of mine gives them 14.
2. Orlov-Voronezh OD: The first thing that I noticed is that they didn’t include assets gathered at Yelnya into the fight.
Anyway, there are two motor rifle divisions on the map belonging to the 20th CAA. Ukrainians give them a total of 10 BTGs and this corresponds with my assessment. The two new BTGs they added likely come from Pogonovo-deployed units from the 4th Tank Division, 1st GTA. Alas, I cannot confirm the veracity of this claim. There was a lot of movement around Pogonovo and Maslovka recently where I saw T-80Us (belonging to 4th TD) but also T-72B3s (belonging to 2nd MRD).
If the 2nd MRD is at Pogonovo, this would put into question placing them in Belarus.
I am also uncertain whether there are two or three BTGs now in Pogonovo. Could be three. So my BTG count for this OD could either correspond with Kyiv’s, or they are missing one BTG.
P.S. This will change in the next few days as Russians deployed new kit to Valuyki so my BTG count will undoubtedly increase.
3. Don OD: This one is a bit tricky because it involves Luhansk and Donetsk forces. We also have the 8th CAA, which I give a total of 10 BTGs (with the 20th MRB). But I am not sure whether Ukrainians included this as well, or not.
4. Crimean OD: We’ve seen a lot of movement around Crimea lately. Let’s first look at what is there permanently. 810th Naval Infantry Brigade – 2 BTGs, 126th Separate Coastal Defense Brigade – 2 BTGs.
Russians have deployed additional 3-4 BTGs to Crimea coming from the 58th and 49th CAAs so I have 7-8 BTGs there now. Kyiv has 12 plus one more in Krasnodar Krai, but I don’t know what this is.
5. Odessa: The amphibious landing near Odessa is noteworthy. Forces that are supposed to land there appear to link with units near Kherson. However, the operation will require a lot of reinforcements. These troops in Transnistria, albeit small in numbers, can become handy.
6. The chart: I also suggest we look at the ‘Enhancing of military potential of Russia near Ukraine” chart on the top right. Although the number of BTGs deployed in March-April was very high, it reached almost the same numbers in September when Zapad was taking place.
As I wrote previously, “this year Russia may have practised operations against Ukraine. Whereas people’s attention in days leading to Zapad-2021 was focused on Belarus and Western Russia in general, in the SMD the Russian forces prepared their forces for the conduct of “strategic operation”* in the south-western strategic direction**. The drill altogether involved 10,000 servicemen, which generated around 12 BTGs plus additional logistics support (also 10,000 men) “.
I don’t mean to go off the rails with this, but in March there was the mobility exercise and redeployment, in August-September Russia may have practised using in-theatre forces against Ukraine and now? War?
To sum up, apart from strange deployments to Belarus and a high number of BTGs in Crimea, my BTG count corresponds with what is on the map.
My BTG count: 29
Kyiv’s BTG count: 40. The largest difference comes from me not including the LPR and DPR forces and the difference in the number of BTGs deployed to Crimea.
I also want to stress that it is too early to say whether the attack (if it happens) will look like this. Russian forces are still prepositioning. The current concentration areas are in Crimea and near Valuyki. Belarus appears quiet. So does Pogonovo.
The situation is dynamic.
*Strategic operation is a joint operation that integrates operational formations from different branches and arms to project power across the theatre of military action with the intent of attaining strategic effects. Click here for more (p.4)
** This includes Ukraine and the Black Sea NATO countries.