By Magdaline Nonkwia, DNT News, Kharkov, Ukraine
DNT Kharkov, Ukraine – The Russian military is once again threatening Ukraine by deploying Iskander ballistic missile systems to Voronezh, a city 175 kilometers northeast of the Ukrainian border, where its forces are already concentrated.
Many Ukrainians are worried this signals a preparation for a full-blown war on Ukraine. “It reminds me of Crimea six years ago,” said one truck driver at a police check point.
Russia says the missiles with an operational range of up to 500 kilometers were deployed to the military airfield of Baltimore in the city’s southern district, allegedly in “preparation for a military parade” to celebrate the World War II Europe victory day on May 9, but Ukrainians are not buying that pretense.
Everybody is panicking because Russia has recently increased its military force near eastern Ukraine and Crimea to a total of at least 80,000 troops, having deployed nearly 50,000, and the United States says this is the largest buildup by Russia since the one leading up to its takeover of Crimea back in 2014.
Russia’s Western Military District on April 13 reported the transportation of four Iskander units of the 20th Guards Combined Arms Army via railways from Kursk, a city 200 kilometers to the west.
The Kremlin meanwhile presents this buildup as preparation for major military training exercises. Numerous reports designate Voronezh Oblast, particularly the local training range Pogonovo as the biggest concentration point of military forces pulled from all across Russia.
Russia is believed to have nearly 150 Iskander missile systems (NATO reporting name SS-26 Stone) of various modifications deployed primarily to the Western Military District.
“The Iskander systems are designated to destroy other missile systems…, long-range artillery, air, and missile defense units, as well as vital infrastructure, with the use of ballistic and cruise missiles,” as the Russian military noted in the report.
The missiles are also capable of delivering nuclear warheads with a yield of up to 50 kilotons, three times the yield of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.
The Iskanders have been in the spotlight of U.S. and NATO concerns for years. Russia was repeatedly accused of introducing Iskander versions capable of exceeding the range of 500 kilometers, in violation of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty between Russia and the U.S.
Years-long tension over the missile system resulted in the U.S. eventually withdrawing from the treaty in 2019.
Magdalene Nonkwia, DNT News, Kharkov, Ukraine