This open source intelligence (OSINT) investigation was prepared by the analytical section of the Come Back Alive Foundation. It deals with the 152nd Separate Logistics Brigade of the 20th Army of the Western Military District of the Russian Armed Forces.
For over two years, the analytical section of the Come Back Alive Foundation has been doing research and analysis in the interests of the higher military command of Ukraine. One of the team’s activity areas is the search for and publication of the information which may inflict damage on the armed forces of the Russian Federation. We use data only from open sources (mass media, social networks, enemy government portals, etc.).
Two years ago, InformNapalm volunteer intelligence community investigated probable formation of a new military logistics base in close proximity to the state borders of Ukraine and Belarus.
The reason for the conclusions made back then was the arrival of an inspection group headed by Lieutenant General Andrei Bulyga, Deputy Commander for Logistics of the Western Military District (WMD), to the town of Unecha (Bryansk Oblast, Russia) in October 2018. Apparently, the group was tasked with finding a location for the deployment of a military logistics base.
However, in that investigation one of the Russian Army officers from that group and his shoulder patch could not be identified. Therefore, it was impossible to determine a specific military unit or force of the Russian army to which the probable new logistics base could belong.
Image of Informnapalm
Analysts of Come Back Alive Foundation managed to find the information about the above-mentioned officer as well as about the military unit under his command.
What is the exact location the of the “classified” logistics brigade? And when was it formed? What are the distinctive features of the infrastructure of the brigade’s permanent station? What types of weapons and military equipment are normally operated by logistics brigades? What do the brigade insignia look like? Was the brigade’s command involved in planning the deployment of a military logistics base near the borders of Belarus and Ukraine, and does this also indicate that Russian Federation is preparing for an armed aggression in this area?
You will find answers to all these questions in our OSINT investigation.
What is a logistics brigade?
To begin with, it is important to get a broad understanding of the role and place of separate logistics brigades (SLB) in the Russian Armed Forces.
The general task of SLBs is to ensure the activity and advance of combat units and formations operating at a considerable distance from their permanent stations.
In fact, SLB subunits set off before or together with the troops to ensure their movement and advance on the route, to build bridges and crossings, supply ammunition, evacuate and repair damaged trucks and armored vehicles of combat troops. If necessary, SLB subunits can also deploy field fueling stations, lay pipelines (e.g. to supply water or fuel), organize bath and laundry points, field feeding points and even small field bakeries. Also SLBs can be involved in the deployment of logistics bases.
The table of organization and equipment of of an SLB is usually quite standard, but it can still slightly differ depending on the deployment area characteristics.
The main components of SLBs are floating bridge, pipeline, maintenance, headquarter and trucking subunits, as well as other subunits and support units (of battalion level and below).
Typically, such brigades number about 2,000 servicemen.
The brigade discussed below is locateded in the Western Military District (WMD) of the Russian Armed Forces bordering Ukraine, therefore, we will look at the SLBs deployed on the territory of this district.
According to the current tables of organization and equipment, each ground force Army of the WMD has its own logistics brigade, namely:
- in the 6th Army (SAINT-PETERSBURG) – 51st SLB (KRASNOYE SELO / SAINT-PETERSBURG)
- in the 1st Army (ODINTSOVO) – 69th SLB (DZERZHINSK)
- in the 20th Army (VORONEZH) – 152nd SLB (LISKI).
Each of these brigades is subordinate to the logistics commander of the respective Army.
Schematic location of individual SLBs of WMD on the map
152nd SLB and its significance
It should be noted that in recent years the military and political leadership of the Russian Federation has been keeping a special focus on the covert formation and deployment of troops, especially new units and combined forces. These processes received minimal media coverage and were scarcely mentioned in the official sources of information. Also, social media activity of the Russian Army servicemen and posting of potentially sensitive photo or video content has become much more tightly controlled.
All this has led to a significant decrease in the amount of publicly available information, but it is impossible to hide everything.
The 152nd SLB is an interesting unit, in the first place, because until now there has been no summary information about it online. At the same time, this brigade is related to the build-up of Russia’s military presence along the state border of Ukraine.
So, in January 2017, the head of the press service of the Western Military District (WMD), Igor Muginov, for the first time mentioned to the media the formation of a new logistics brigade in Voronezh Oblast. The designation of the brigade, its command and permanent station location were not disclosed. But a year later, information began to leak to open sources.
In February 2018, at the celebrations honoring the “soldiers-internationalists” in the city of Liski (Voronezh Oblast), the designation number of the SLB, the location of its permanent station and the name of the deputy brigade commander were announced:
“About the valor of the warriors of the Afghan war … speaks the military enlistment officer Igor Afanasyev, deputy commander of the 152nd Separate Logistics Brigade of the Western Military District, stationed in Liski, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Katkin …”
Photos from the event
The purpose of the next stage of this investigation has been to find and confirm the exact location of the permanent station of the 152nd SLB in Liski.
The location of the 152nd SLB
The town of Liski is the administrative center of the Liski raion of the Voronezh Oblast and a large railway junction on the South-Western railway of the Russian Federation, therefore, the deployment of a logistics brigade here is well justified. In addition, the 152nd SLB stationed here is the closest to the state border of Ukraine among the logistics units of the WMD.
Background information: Also, 40 kilometers from the town of Liski, there is a Training Center for Junior Specialists of the Armored Service of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation (Ostrogozhsk) – the largest in the territory of the Western Military District. A training range is also located at this center.
Within the city itself, there is a large military compound, however, all official and unofficial sources listing military facilities of the Voronezh Oblast designate it as military unit 63796. Several sources indicate that the 1871st Artillery Armament Base was once located there, but at the moment has been liquidated.
The territory of the military unit and the railway station in Liski
With the help of the Google Street View service, we confirmed the location of the 152nd SLB in the territory of the compound.
View of the entrance checkpoint of the military unit, from 50.980498, 39.502739 Krasnykh Zor street, Liski
Information stand at the entrance checkpoint of the military unit
A detailed analysis of Google satellite images for April 19, 2019 reveals that there were almost 200 military vehicles in the permanent station territory stored in the open air, and probably even more equipment was in the storage garages. There are more than 40 buildings on the territory of the military unit, including clearly distinguishable barracks, headquarters and storage garages for military hardware.
Permanent station of the 152nd SLB
Recent social media posts of active servicemen and local residents of Liski provided us a drone view of the permanent station of the 152nd SLB and a direct glimpse inside the military unit compound.
Permanent station of the 152nd SLB, aerial view from a drone (June 17, 2020)
Permanent station of the 152nd SLB (photo from the barracks, posted on June 22, 2020)
Judging by Google satellite images history, this area stood abandoned from late 2014 to late 2017. Also, in a local news report from 2015, it is called a “former military unit.”
It should be noted that at the time when the 1871st Artillery Armament Base was still stationed there, the amount of military hardware in this territory got significantly reduced precisely in the period when active hostilities were unfolding in the Donbas (summer 2014). It is possible that in 2014, some of the weapons from this base could have been transferred to the Russian occupation forces in the occupied territory of Eastern Ukraine.
Comparison of the mass of military hardware in 2013 and 2014
Background information: InformNapalm volunteer intelligence community compiled the largest database of regular military units of the Russian Army that participated in direct armed aggression on the territory of Ukraine, and analyzed their weaponry.
Abandoned compound in 2016 and 2017
Only from February 2018, military equipment started to appear on this territory again as the active stage of forming a logistics brigade began.
Arrival of military equipment of the logistics brigade to the permanent station grounds in Liski (2018)
It is also worth noting that individual parts and subunits of SLBs are often scattered over several towns or villages. But so far it is known that the compound in Liski is the main station of the brigade, where most of the equipment and the brigade’s headquarters are located.
Identification marks (shoulder patches) of the 152nd SLB
As a result of a deep social media search and an analysis of the Russian Youtube segment, we found the shoulder insignia of the 152nd SLB.
Image from VK: photo from the territory of the military unit
Image from Instagram: serviceman of the 152nd SLB at the workplace (has a profile photo from the territory of the military unit)
Image from Youtube – representatives of the 152nd SLB participating in celebrations at school No 12, Liski
Background information: The largest database of logistics military unit patches of the Russian army could be found here. As of early September 2020, there was no data on the 152nd SLB.
Command of the 152nd SLB
In addition to the deputy commander of the military unit, we also could identify the commander of the 152nd SLB. It turned out to be Colonel A.A. Fominykh. We found some information on him in the community of the Liski City Palace of Culture on the OK social network (dated February 26, 2019).
Images from the OK social network posting of the Liski City Palace of Culture
It is worth noting that this post is not the only one that contains both the designation of the brigade (military unit 80504), as well as the name and photo of the commander.
To prove that Colonel Fominykh is the commander of the 152nd SLB, it was necessary to prove that military unit 80504 was in fact the 152nd SLB.
Firstly, the shoulder patches of the servicemen standing behind the commander of military unit 80504 are identical to those of the servicemen of the 152nd SLB.
Secondly, the post states that the servicemen of military unit 80504 prepared an act for the show, and judging by the photo, they have the same shoulder patches.
Image from the OK network – shoulder patches of servicemen of the military unit 80504
Thirdly, there is the Church of St. George the Victorious, at the military unit 80504, located at the same address as the 152nd SLB – 7 Krasnykh Zor street, Liski.
Church of St. George the Victorious at military unit 80504
After analyzing the building of the church, we could determine its exact geographical position. It really is on the territory of the military unit. Exact coordinates: 50.981287, 39.500430
Church of St. George the Victorious at military unit 80504 – geolocation
Moreover, posts of the mother of one of the conscripts on Instagram, as well as the list of Russian military units from the VK social network, also prove that military unit 80504 and 152nd SLB are one and the same unit.
Image from Instagram: shoulder patches of a serviceman of military unit 80504
Image from the VK social network: military unit 80504
Considering all of the above, we can confidently assert that military unit 80504 is the 152nd SLB, and Colonel Fominykh is its commander.
High-quality photos of the brigade commander are also available in the posting of the Liski Palace of Culture.
Images from the OK social network: Colonel Fominykh, commander of the 152nd SLB of the Russian Army
What is known about Colonel Fominykh? There is scarce information about him on the web, but it is enough to draw preliminary conclusions. Judging by the statements of the press service of the Western Military District, the 152nd SLB began to legally form in early 2017. Most likely, from that moment on, Colonel Fominykh was appointed to the position of brigade commander. We did not aim to analyze in detail his career path, but we found a confirmation of his participation in a litigation at Stavropol Garrison Military Court in 2011. There he was involved as the commander of a military unit, then still “Lieutenant Colonel A.A. Fominykh.” The court case dealt with an illegal dismissal of one of his subordinates at an automotive battalion. It suggests that as of 2011 he was in command of a logistics unit in the Southern Military District, as the case was considered in Stavropol. Probably it could be the 32nd Logistics Regiment, which later provided the basis to form 78th SLB (Budyonnovsk, Southern Military District). But all this is actually not as significant as the fact that this officer already had experience of commanding a logistics unit, and was entrusted with the formation of a new brigade. All this gives us grounds to believe that he enjoyed a good reputation among the higher command.
From the news reports, it became known that Colonel Fominykh was still the acting brigade commander as of May 2020. Alongside his surname, his first name was also mentioned – Alexey. Although in the previous news story from 2019 he was called Alexander Andreevich.
Colonel Fominykh also has a number of awards. Some of them immediately stand out:
- For Service in the Caucasus – a distinction badge for officers and warrant officers of the North Caucasus Military District, which is another indication that he served in the southern region of the Russian Federation, even before the formation of the Southern Military District in 2010 on the basis of the North Caucasus District;
- a Badge of Distinction for military personnel of the logistics units;
- medals For Military Valor of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation of I and II degrees. These awards are given out personally by the Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation and this may indicate high performance in combat training, outstanding achievements in military service/drills.
Some awards of Colonel Fominykh
The brigade commander could have received the medals For Military Valor for the participation of parts of his brigade in the military campaign in Syria. However, there is little evidence of this, and it is beyond the purpose of this investigation.
Armament and military equipment of the 152nd SLB
As part of the investigation, we discovered a probable tactical identification marking born by the military equipment of the 152nd SLB. Vehicles with such a sign were exhibited at an open-doors day at the military unit. This marking could be valid as of May 2019, but it is likely that the sign is different at this point.
Background information: A photo of the identification marking of the armament and military equipment of the 152nd SLB was found through the priest who serves at the garrison church located on the grounds of the military unit. He is active on social media and has been the source of many valuable photos. His followers on VK and Instagram also helped considerably.
Likely identification mark of the military equipment of the152nd SLB as of May 2019
Search for the tactical marking of the military equipment of the152nd SLB
In general, the sets of automotive and armored vehicles of logistics brigades are quite standard. However, part of the armament and military equipment of 152nd SLB could have been modernized, in particular, certain vehicles of the brigade could have been changed to more modern the KamAZ chassis, namely, cross-country and heavy lift vehicles.
The role of the 152nd SLB in building up Russian military presence near the state border of Ukraine
It is worth noting that at present, most of the combat units and subunits of the newly formed 144th Motorized Rifle Division (MRD) of the 20th Army of the Western Military District, are deployed on the territory of Bryansk Oblast, namely:
- 488th Motorized Rifle Regiment (Klintsy) of 144th MRD;
- 254th Motorized Rifle Regiment (Zaymishche) of 144th MRD;
- 856th Self-propelled Artillery Regiment (Pochep-2) of 144th MRD;
- 1032nd Separate Logistics Battalion (Pochep) of 144th MRD;
- 150th Separate Medical Battalion (Pochep) of 144th MRD.
Military units of the Russian Army, concentrated on the territory of Bryansk Oblast (namely, in the regions bordering on Ukraine and Belarus)
“Unecha is a regional center of Bryansk Oblast, an important railway junction. Population – 23,971 people (as of 2017). It is located 79 km away from the Belarusian border (towards Gomel), and 58 km from the Ukrainian border (towards Semenivka). The Gomel and Mogilev railway lines run through the city; the Gomel A-240 route is 5 km from the city. Both the railway lines and the road running towards Gomel connect, along a straight line, Bryansk, Pochep, Unecha, Klintsy and Gomel.”, – noted the investigation of Informnapalm in 2018.
Although the aforementioned InformNapalm investigation exposed the intentions of the military and political leadership of the Russian Federation, at the time of its writing, there was not enough data on the web to identify the individuals and the units they represented. This open-source information has become available recently.
The officer who came to Unecha in October 2018 as part of the delegation of Lieutenant-General Andrey Bulyga, Deputy Commander for Logistics of the Western Military District, was identified as Colonel Fominykh described above, the commander of the 152nd Separate Logistics Brigade (aka military unit 80504) permanently deployed in the city of Liski, Bryansk Oblast. This is confirmed by the similarity of the faces, the name patch (which was readable only partially) and the identical brigade shoulder patches.
Commander of the 152nd SLB, Colonel Fominykh, in Unecha (2018) and at celebrations in Liski (2019)
Let us recall that according to the information stands captured by journalists in 2018, it was planned to form a logistics base in Unecha, for: “… storage of materials … stocks of materiel … other support assets…”.
Image of Informnapalm
It is not known whether a final decision has been made to locate the logistics base in Unecha. However, the presence of a large railway junction, as well as other relevant infrastructure and relative location of existing military units give us strong grounds to believe that a military logistics base could be located there. We call on the Ukrainian intelligence to endeavor to identify such bases in advance by searching for potential alternative locations for their deployment in the area.
However, a few interesting facts are worth mentioning. In 2019, a decision was actually announced to hand over the necessary land and buildings to the Russian Ministry of Defense for the formation of a military unit. The decision concerned the territory of that old Unecha Nodal Hospital which had been visited by the representatives of the WMD command in 2018. But instead, one of the hospital buildings was urgently turned into a 400-bed hospital to receive patients with COVID-19 from all over the Bryansk Oblast. At the same time, in the fall of 2019, work began in the field behind the old Nodal Hospital, which can indicate a preparatory stage for the construction of modular structures or a landing pad for helicopters (see animation below).
Changes from August 2019 to August 2020 in the area where it was planned to deploy the logistics base in 2018 (Unecha)
It should be noted that the work carried out near the church (the smaller spot on the right) was the construction of a new parking lot. A new paved road was also built across the field.
New road and parking lot near the church
The main site on the field (52.857826, 32.670183) measures approximately 130 by 70 meters, but it is not yet known exactly whether anything will be built on this lot. Perhaps sand and gravel for the development of the church grounds are simply stored there. However, we believe that this area should be kept under further observation.
Probable construction site for new buildings or aprons in the interests of the Russian Army
It cannot be ruled out that after the plans of the Russian Army were exposed in 2018, all further information in the official Russian military sources and some actions of the authorities could have been aimed at misleading the military and political leadership of Ukraine and Belarus.
These measures could have been both a further imitation of the deployment of the base exactly there, or vice versa an imitation of no longer locating the the base there, although still planning its deployment elsewhere.
In fact, it is no longer important whether the Kremlin will locate a logistics base in Unecha or in a slightly different location. Of principal significance, is the very fact that the Russian Army is planning or is already deploying a military logistics base (or bases) in the immediate vicinity of the state borders of Belarus and Ukraine, precisely in the area of a significant concentration of the newly formed military units making up the 144th MRD (Yelnya / Smolensk).
It is important to note that logistics bases and units serve not only the brigades and regiments of their respective army or military district, but also all combat forces that operate or may operate in the area where these logistics units are deployed.
It is also worth noting that the 144th MRD has its own separate logistics battalion in Pochep. Thus, the military units of the Division based in the Bryansk Oblast already have sufficient own logistics resources for their routine activities at permanent stations and for any local tasks.
Therefore, we assume that a logistics base in the Bryansk Oblast may be required not only for the military units already deployed there, but also for the support of all combat units that could be involved in a probable offensive in this direction against the Republic of Belarus or Ukraine.
Locating of a military logistics base in close proximity to the state borders of neighboring countries in itself indicates that the Russian Army is preparing for active (in particular, offensive) actions in this direction, or at least imitates such a readiness.
It should be noted that the involving 152nd SLB in the deployment of troops in Bryansk Oblast implies the possibility to use such standard assets as floating bridges, large and medium folding bridges, etc. These types of assets are designed to ensure the advance of troops over water obstacles. In the relevant area, such a need may arise only in the case of a massive cross-border offensive, i.e. to cross the rivers Sozh and Iput (Gomel Oblast, Belarus) or the rivers Snov and Desna (Chernihiv Oblast, Ukraine).
Also, any future maneuvers of these assets may be an imitation of activity to mislead the military and political leadership of neighboring countries. This may create the need to maintain certain numbers of personnel and military equipment near the northern borders of Ukraine thus pulling resources from the war with the Russian occupation forces in the Donbas and weakening the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the conflict zone.
This investigation reconfirms that the Russian Federation continues to build up its military presence near its western borders. Contrary to its public statements, the Kremlin is set to continue an armed aggression against Ukraine and increase the political, economic and military pressure on the Republic of Belarus. The better we know the enemy, the better we can predict his actions and fight back. Therefore, we will continue to collect information about the activity and presence of the Russian Army near the borders of Ukraine.
By Anton Shevchenko, analytical section of Come Back Alive Foundation
Translation by Artem Velichko.Distribution and reprint with reference to the source is welcome! (Creative Commons — Attribution 4.0 International — CC BY 4.0) InformNapalm social media pages: Facebook / Twitter / Telegram
InformNapalm does not have any financial support from any government or large donors, the only sponsors of the project are its volunteers and readers. You can also help InformNapalm by signing up for monthly mini-contributions through Patreon.