Volunteers of InformNapalm volunteer intelligence community identified and investigated, based on the relevant open-source intelligence (OSINT), the formation of a new military unit at the borders of Ukraine and Belarus. This investigation includes facts and conclusions that will be useful for military analysts and all those interested in Russia’s covert military operations.
Since the beginning of its military aggression in 2014, the Russian Federation has been building up its military presence along all of Ukraine’s land and sea borders.
Over the past 4 years, Russia
has formed and deployed three new mechanized infantry divisions near the state border of Ukraine:
- 144th Motorized Rifle Division, 20th Army: Yelnya/Smolensk;
- 3rd Motorized Rifle Division 20th Army: Valuyki;
- 150th Motorized rifle division 8th Army: Novocherkassk.
has formed the 1st Tank Army, Western Military District, and mechanized infantry and tank divisions in the Western and Southern Military Districts of the Russian Federation (2nd Motorized Rifle Division, 4th Armored Division, 42nd Motorized Rifle Division, etc.), which in the course of their military exercises train to deploy and engage in combat along the borders of Ukraine, including in the Republic of Belarus;
has redeployed the headquarters of the 20th Army of the Western Military District from Mulino back to Voronezh (the HQ was moved from Voronezh to Mulino in 2010);
has formed (on the basis of the 12th Reserve Command of the Southern Military District (Novocherkassk) the Center of Territorial Troops (2015) and, later, the 8th Army of the Southern Military District (2017);
Currently, the 8th Army of the Southern Military District (previously, the 12th Reserve Command and the Center of Territorial Troops) directly controls the 1st and the 2nd Army Corps of the so-called “republics” in the temporarily occupied areas of Ukraine; the corps themselves being an official and integral part of the troops of the Southern Military District in particular and of the Russian Armed Forces in general
has increased its military presence in the Black Sea and in the Seas of Azov, obstructing international maritime freight traffic through the Kerch Strait and in the Sea of Azov;
has conducted large-scale military exercises to train the strategic interaction of units and formations of various service branches.
has reformed and rearmed its troops on a large-scale basis, primarily, the Airborne Forces, the Special Operations Troops and the Russian Strategic Missile Forces;
Combined with the ongoing hybrid aggression of the Russian Federation and persistent, continuing attempts to destabilize the political and social situation in Ukraine, all of the aforementioned facts constitute a direct threat to the territorial integrity and independence of Ukraine.
New military unit in the Bryansk Oblast
It has recently transpired that another military unit of the Russian Armed Forces has been scheduled for deployment in the Bryansk Oblast (borders the Chernihiv and Sumy Oblasts of Ukraine and the Gomel and Mogilyov Oblasts of the Republic of Belarus).
Overall, many Russian military units are stationed in the Bryansk Oblast; with the following newly formed units already deployed there by the summer of 2018:
– the 488th Motorized Rifle Regiment (MRR) of the 144th Motorized Rifle Division (MRD) in Klintsy;
an MRR of the 144th MRD in Zaymishche (outskirts of Klintsy) (by now, however, only a field camp and some military equipment of the 488 Motorized Rifle Regiment have been deployed there). Klintsy’s new zoning plan designates the land around the camp as a “restricted area”.
– the 856th Self-propelled Artillery Regiment (SPAR) of the 144 MRD: in Pochep / Pochep-2 (in the area where the former 24th Emergency Response and Security Regiment was stationed);
– a separate logistics battalion of the 144th MRD: in Pochep;
– a separate medical battalion of the 144 MRD: in Pochep;
The new military unit is scheduled for deployment in the town of Unecha.
Unecha is a district center in the Bryansk Oblast with a population of 223,971 people (2017). It is 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, 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.
The deployment of the new unit in Unecha came to light after Lieutenant-General Andrey Bulyga, Deputy Commander for Logistics of the Western Military District, visited the city on October 12.
The local media wrote: “Deputy Governor Sergey Sergeyev and Military Commissar of the Bryansk Oblast Andrey Solomentsev also visited the city to discuss the possibility of deploying a military unit in Unecha. The delegation examined the area and the building of the former railway hospital that is being considered as a possible new home for the military unit…“
In fact, the preparations are already underway not only inside the former Nodal Hospital of Unecha but also in the adjacent area, meaning that the decision to deploy the unit here has most likely been made. This is also evidenced by the development plan recently placed in the hospital area. Now, let us look into this in detail.
According to official statements of the Bryansk Oblast mass media, including the official website of the Government of the Bryansk Oblast, it was exactly the former railway hospital of Unecha that was inspected by the delegation headed by Lieutenant-General A. M. Bulyga.
Despite the fact that the hospital has been closed for about 10 years, its location can be easily found using publicly available information.
52.853181, 32.666725 is the location of a campus, the main building being the former Nodal Hospital (2- and 3-storied units). Nearby is the Central District Hospital of Unecha.
According to this information and the townsmen’s letter to the Russian President of 2008, the building served as the Nodal Hospital of the then Unecha Station as long ago as before the Second World War. After the war, it was restored to accommodate 250 patients. In the 2000s, Unecha’s maternity ward was here; it was closed in 2008, after Russian Railways JSC sold the hospital the local Central District Hospital.
The transfer of the Nodal Hospital was completed in 2011 and cost the regional budget 10 million rubles.
In 2012, the then governor said that the repairs would be completed in 2013, and that 61.5 million rubles would be allocated for it in 2012-2013. Given the price for which the hospital was purchased from Russian Railways JSC and the cost of repairs done in 2011, the amount spent on the repairs of the hospital totals at least 77 million rubles .
According to the interview with the head doctor of the Central District Hospital A.M. Vladimirov published on a local website on January 30, 2015, the contractor completed the repairs in December 2014, that is, a year after the scheduled deadline. He also said that the hospital was downsized to just 115 beds, all of them located in the central building of the district hospital.
Consequently, after the completion of the repairs in December 2014, the building of the former Nodal Hospital has not been used and, probably, has not been properly heated. It is, therefore, likely that the interiors have degraded over the past 4 years and need to be repaired again.
Additional geolocation information
Based on the analysis of the photographs taken by the delegation members in Unecha and available online, some of the photos were actually taken in the territory of the former railway hospital. Moreover, it is exactly here where information stands setting out organizational and staffing structure (and, probably, the area improvement plans and layouts and other information) of the new unit are located.
The fact that the unit will be stationed here is also evidenced by the video on the local YouTube channel – “Unecha’s First Channel”. It features the area and buildings of the former railway hospital as well as photos with the delegation members inspecting the buildings. When watching the video, one can easily hear the sound of repairs going on inside the buildings.
We note that based on the information shared by the locals on the Internet, it is very likely that some new infrastructure facilities will be built: most probably, in the field located between the former railway hospital, the Annunciation Cathedral and the Ural Volunteers Park. They said, in particular, that Russian servicemen started intense construction activities in the area six days after the departure of the WMD panel.
New unit’s branch and format
The branch of the troops and some other information about the military unit to be stationed in Unecha were determined based on those few photos featuring the WMD panel members and a number of other factors.
When the locals began discussing the forthcoming arrival of the military in town on the local social media, the prevailing opinion was that they would be stationed at the Military Hospital. They thought so probably because of the quartering of personnel in the former hospital. However, after reviewing all of the available materials, we think it unlikely.
As it turned out later, information posted on October 14 by user Gennady Aksyonov was the closest to the truth.
Firstly, the fact that this was going to be a logistics unit was clear from the very beginning because it was Deputy Commander for Logistics of the Western Military District who visited the city.
Secondly, this high-resolution photograph (thank you, local media) allowed us to read some text on the information stands (see photo).
From left to right:
Stand 1: the fragments of phrases imply that this is, most likely, a logistics base: “…intended for: … storage of material resources ….. stocks of supplies… other provisions …” . The diagram on the map may be a communication diagram;
Stand 2: this is the structure of the unit (the text is illegible); there are word combinations “main divisions” and “support units”. There is a table titled “Staffing level 5 (?) … illegible (name of the unit). ”
Stand 3specifies the location of the infrastructure units in the area;
Stand 4: probably, some general information about Unecha.
The remaining data are being deciphered.
Obviously, this unit / logistics base will be part of the logistics infrastructure of the Western Military District.
At the same time, the likelihood that it will be subordinated to the 144th MRD is very small because:
– Of all the officers who were not announced in the media as participants in the meeting, but who we managed to identify by photos, no one represented 144 MRD (to be confirmed);
– the 144th MRD already includes a separate logistics battalion in Pochep, with a well-repaired permanent deplyment station at the “Locator” (a district in Pochep);
However, one of the officers who was present at the meeting with the Deputy Commander for Logistics in Unecha was most likely a representative of the administration of one of the military logistics brigades of the Western Military District.
Though this officer (he is a colonel, so let’s call him “Colonel N”) is on most of the photos, the only identifiable item we could find was the shoulder patch on his right sleeve.
Judging by the form of its shield, it is a brigade patch (that is, it does not belong to the 144th MRD).
Standard heraldic elements of logistics brigades shoulder patches are coats of arms (in the center and, sometimes, in the center of a gear) and crossed ax (poleaxe, halberd) and wrench (or adjustable wrench).
× Information on shoulder patches of logistics support formations and units of the Russian Armed Forces can be found here
The patch on Colonel N’s sleeve is non-standard and has not been fully identified. In the center of the shoulder patch is the coat of arms of the Western Military District . There is a crossed wrench and an ax of an unusual shape. There is a possibility that it is an adjustable wrench rather than an ax. We have never seen such a shoulder patch before.
Below you can see shoulder patches of one of the newly-formed separate logistics brigades of the Russian Armed Forces: the 51st Logistics Brigade (Krasnoe Selo / St. Petersburg, military unit 72152), being one of the two Logistics Brigades of the Western Military District.
All these versions of the brigade’s shoulder patches are sold by Russian online stores. Note that some are placed on the military district’s shield rather than on the brigade’s shield.
The patch of the 69th Logistics Brigade of the Western Military District is similar to the patch of the 51st Logistics Brigade; however, it does not fully match the chevron on Colonel N’s sleeve.
In fact, the field shoulder patch of the 51st Brigade differs from the colonel’s patch only in that it has another wrench instead of a halberd.
It is theoretically possible that the elements of shoulder patches of high-ranking brigade officers may differ slightly from the patches of other military personnel of the brigade. Therefore, it is just a guess that this Colonel N serves in a WMD logistics brigade (or in the WMD Logistics Center).
Therefore, we may conclude that the military unit scheduled for deployment in Unecha will be part of the logistics system of the Western Military District of the Russian Armed Forces and will either be directly subordinate to the WMD headquarters or will be a division of one of the WMD logistics units.
Its purpose is to store logistical stocks to support troops (automotive equipment / spare parts / fuel / ammunition (to be confirmed)). It is possible that other infrastructure facilities will be built, including helicopter pads and modular buildings.
Some unusual aspects of the redeployment
Given that Unecha residents have reported intensive activities by the military near their new deployment location, it is rather unusual that no servicemen’s photos have been posted on the social media (VK, OK, Instagram, etc.), as is usually the case. As the experience shows (e.g., the redeployment of the 144th MRD), even if solders are strictly prohibited from posting photographs taken at military facilities, they still cannot resist the temptation to post at least photos showing their living conditions or how they spend their leisure time.
In the case at hand, no servicemen’s photos of the Unecha area have so far been found. This means that either most of the servicemen have not arrived yet or that this is a make-believe operation (which is unlikely).
The reaction of the locals
The locals do not welcome the deployment of the military unit in their small town. And it stands to reason as after a large number of the military arrived in Klintsy, the cost of living (including rent) there skyrocketed, the servicemen would often get into a fight (sometimes ending up with injuries) with the locals, and finding a place for a child in a kindergarten or school became a problem.
This is not counting the fact that heavy military and maintenance vehicles will wear out their roads and that drunken contract soldiers will wander around the town each night looking for girls and adventure, knowing they can get away with it. Also, storages of explosive ammunition do tend to catch fire and explode.
Judging by comments on social media, some of the locals already realize the true extent of the problem.
The Russian Federation continues to build up its military presence along the borders of Ukraine and Belarus.
The deployment of new military units in the Bryansk Oblast allows the Kremlin to put military and political pressure on both Belarusian and Ukrainian leaders.
Given the peculiarities of the region’s terrain and infrastructure, it is easier to deploy and move the Russian troops towards the Republic of Belarus; this, however, does not rule out the use of the Russian troops against Ukraine.
Given that there is a railway junction in Unecha and a road nearby, it is safe to assume that the new unit / logistics base of the Western Military District is being deployed there to provide operational support to all mechanized infantry, tank and artillery units of the Russian Armed Forces in the area. This may be evidence of preparations for military operations and troop maneuvers in the area in the near future.
This publication has been made possible courtesy of Lieutenant-General A.M. Bulyga, Deputy Commander of the Western Military District of the Russian Federation, whose visit to Unecha triggered this inquiry, the administration of the Unecha District, the local reporters who posted the relevant photos on regional websites and of all residents of Unecha who have been voicing their concern about the deployment of the new military unit in their town.
This publication was prepared by Yura Galushko specially for InformNapalm.
(Creative Commons — Attribution 4.0 International — CC BY 4.0)