Yesterday Maxar released images of the camp and barracks at Yelnya.
Here are several observations based on the imagery analysis and the general context.
But first, one caveat. I have no access to the original Maxar shot. Instead, the analysis was done on images available on Twitter. Not great, not terrible.
- Yelnya barracks have been expanded in the last two years. Although this was something visible on commercial imagery in 2020, the area was a low priority one for commercial providers. Only now can we see that the barracks were completed.
- The military base hosts three units: A tank regiment, an engineer-sapper and an anti-tank battalions. The barracks are unlikely to be at full capacity. We know that the 59th Tank Regiment is undermanned. The other two subunits are possibly too. In this context, the question is following: Is the 41st CAA being used to strengthen the 20th CAA? I still think this is unlikely and Maxar imagery provides some evidence to support this claim.
- Low-resolution imagery showed and Maxar confirmed that the 41st CAA assets are being kept separate from the main barracks at Yelnya. The way the 41st CAA ‘base’ is structured indicates equipment is simply stored there. Akin to Pogonovo. Some vehicles are under protective covers. Again, this suggests they can be stored at Yelnya for a while.
- At Yelnya, there are three main camps: two with equipment and one for personnel. The former stores 3-5 BTGs. One of which is based on BMP-1s. Not the greatest platform to go to war against Ukraine, or anyone else.
- The equipment deployed includes Iskanders and TOS-1s. BTGs come from 74th, 35th MRBs and possibly one from the 90th Tank Division. Add all of these up and you have a nucleus of a new CAA. The one thing that is missing is the air defence assets and possibly elements that would form an artillery brigade.
- The camp seems to lack a field hospital. One was stood up both at Pogonovo and Opuk in March. This could suggest the camp for personnel could be short-lived and may be folded soon. Need to monitor this closely.
- The 59th Tank Regiment at Yelnya is the northernmost unit of the 20th CAA. Its goal is to support Belarus, rather than to deter Ukraine. If the aim was to deploy units in support of 20th CAA’s possible military operations against Ukraine, we’d probably see 41st CAA’s BTGs being sent to Klintsy or Zaymishche where the 488th and 254th (also undermanned) Motor Rifle Regiments are deployed. Nearby Pochep-2 hosts the 856th Artillery Regiment. These areas are located around 50 km from Ukraine.
- Instead, the Russian General Staff opted to deploy the 41st CAA’s BTGs to Yelnya, 120 km from the Russo-Belarusian border and 240 km from Ukraine (in a straight line). I don’t think the nature of the 41st CAA’s movement is coercive or deterring in nature. Though there is a flip side to this view. Deployments to of the 41st CAA to Pogonovo in April were probably Ukraine-related. Pogonovo to Ukraine and Yelnya to Ukraine distances are very similar. Coincidence?
There is one more thing that warrants attention, but which indicates that the 41st CAA movements are related to the ongoing Ukraine situation. In March and April when everyone was focused on Pogonovo, the Russian Armed Forces set up another forward-deployed base. But in Crimea, near Novoozerne. The base holds a significant portion of the 58th CAA’s artillery assets. This equipment is still there. Therefore, two bases with prepositioned equipment remain near Ukraine, in the north and south of the border.
Another thing that I find slightly concerning is the movement of BTGs from 1st GTA. I have linked those to a training cycle, but it seems, they ventured quite far south, but still within the Western MD area of responsibility.
Comparing what we were seeing in March, current events do not indicate that is a build-up occurring. Movements earlier this year were the largest mobility and prepositioning exercises in the Russian Armed Forces that were not linked to any ongoing combat operations. In March Russia had elements of four CAA deployed near Ukraine with additional airborne units sent to Crimea. Nothing of this kind seems to be happening now.