During 2020, the OSCE has identified numerous illegal border crossings used by the Russian army to enter eastern Ukraine. Usually seen at night, these increased sightings are due to the OSCE using long-range UAV flights. When invading countries, the Russian army are creatures of the night who avoid daylight. Vampires?
Since Sept 2014, Russia’s had total control over 409km of Ukraine’s eastern border. Much of this border region is remote and unpopulated, making it easy to cross without ground observation. For a good example of this and OSCE imagery showing Russian convoys entering Ukraine, check out my last post.
Village of Astakhove.
Less than 2km from the Russian border, it’s located in Ukraine’s Luhansk Oblast (province). Sept 3rd 2020, the OSCE reported seeing a military vehicle near Astakhove – Aerial imagery available to the SMM (Special Monitoring Mission) revealed the presence on 30 August of a probable military-type truck in a field about 2.5km north-west of Astakhove (81km south of Luhansk), in an area about 2.8km north of the border with the Russian Federation, where there are no border crossing facilities.
So it was off to check Google Earth to see what I could find.
And low and behold, we find a Russian army camp next to a dirt track road leading into Ukraine. My blog heading says new crossing, but it’s really one I’ve just discovered. Taken from the Russian side of the border, the below 3D Google Earth image shows the Russian village of Mayaki (bottom right). From it, a dirt track road (red line) leads to the Russian/Ukrainian border and through a wood to the Ukrainian village of Astakhove. As you can see, the area is heavily wooded and remote. The red square indicates the position of a Russian military camp. Coordinates 47°50’7.66″N 39°36’36.12″E
Stages of Russian military presence.
1: Seen above, the first activity in the Russian camp shows up in Oct 2016. This takes the form of a small building or probable trailer positioned on the edge of the wood (red square). On the far left is the border boundary bank and ditch. 2014 imagery show no activity in this area.
2: May 2017: Several more structures have appeared in the red square. Next to it in the yellow square, the areas been cleared for presumed parking for military vehicles. Multiple vehicle tracks and ground disturbance indicate frequent use by military vehicles.
3: June 2018: We now have a fully fledged military camp, with numerous military tents and vehicles. The fact the Russian army has now set up a military camp here indicates this crossing has been used on a regular basis. Facilities here would be used by those coordinating the crossings and probably by convoys crossing back and forth across the border.
4: August 2019: The tents have gone, but some structures still remain.
The August 2020 OSCE observation of a military vehicle near here, suggests this crossing is still in use today. To frustrate potential OSCE sightings, I suspect the Russian army alternates the use of such crossings.