Within their Feb 14th daily report, the OSCE published details of a large, armoured convoy having apparently just entered Ukraine from Russia. January 31st, 2020: Near the Ukrainian town of Novoazovske, on Ukraine’s southern, Azov Sea coastline, they reported seeing 11 armoured combat vehicles and a convoy of “trucks going west,” from the border crossing at Maksimov. With Russia in total control of 409km of Ukraine’s eastern border, this is another example of how easy it is for Russia to use captured Ukrainian border crossings to send military forces and supplies into Ukraine.
“On the morning of 31 January, aerial imagery available to the SMM revealed the presence of four armoured combat vehicles (ACVs) at a border crossing point near Novoazovsk (102km south-east of Donetsk) heading a queue of trucks going west, as well as two ACVs about 1km further west and five ACVs moving east to west along the road.”
Text from OSCE report.
What they witnessed is likely to be a Russian military troop rotation, complete with their armoured vehicles, something which the OSCE has reported on before. With the trucks accompanied by armoured vehicles, the soldiers maybe regular Russian troops, rather than Russian mercenaries who can freely cross the border as and when. With the Kremlin sensitive to prying eyes, virtually every day, the OSCE report Russia-led soldiers blocking access to this border area and surrounding villages/towns. Because of these on-going restrictions, the OSCE used “aerial imagery” to report on this.
Location of Novoazovske. The yellow line marks the Ukrainian/Russian border. Russia-led forces occupy all territory west up to the now abandoned town of Shyrokyne, outside the Ukraine held city of Mariupol.
A closer look at Novoazovske. The border crossing the OSCE refers too, is 13km away, near the Russian village of Maksimov (top right).
Close-up of the border crossing. Ukraine on left, Russia right.
Just 48km away from the border, is the Russian military base & airfield at Taganrog.
July 2017: OSCE observe military convoys in Novoazovske.
On July 22nd, 2017, the OSCE reported having been stopped for three hours by Russia-led soldiers at a checkpoint in Novoazovske. While there, complete with flashing lights, a host of military trucks carrying soldiers, an armoured personnel carrier (APC), police cars, and 4×4 sports utility vehicles passed them. As the OSCE state, these vehicles were “traveling in the direction of the border with the Russian Federation,” and some apparently returning from it.
Taken by the OSCE, the below two photographs show an APC and one of the trucks passing them in Novoazovske. Having witnessed and taken photos of what appears to be a military troop rotation, you’ll understand why Russia’s forces have now increased their efforts to restrict OSCE access to this border area. Note: “DPR” refers to Russia’s sham Donetsk People’s republic.
“On 22 July, the SMM saw multiple military-type vehicles travelling across a “DPR”-controlled checkpoint on road E-58 north of Novoazovsk (40km east of Mariupol) while it was positioned there for about three hours due to a denial of access*. The SMM saw, in sequence: one APC (BTR-80) travelling in the direction of Novoazovsk; a convoy of four police-type cars, two black sport utility vehicles with flashing lights, nine vans and five military-type trucks (many of which had the inscription “ТБГ” and appeared to be transporting men in military-style attire) travelling in the direction of the border with the Russian Federation; one empty military-type truck travelling in the direction of Novoazovsk; two black sport utility vehicles with flashing lights travelling in the direction of the border with the Russian Federation; five previously observed empty military-type trucks travelling in the direction of Novoazovsk; two empty military-type trucks travelling in the direction of the border with the Russian Federation; and two empty military-type trucks travelling in the direction of Novoazovsk.”
For more detail on this July 22nd incident, check out this article by The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab.