Report: Russia Moves Nuclear-Capable Missile Launchers to Ukraine Border

Russian soldiers load an Iskander-M missile launcher during a military exercise at a firing range in Ussuriysk, Russia on Nov. 17, 2016. (Yuri Smityuk/TASS/Getty Images)
Yuri Smityuk/TASS/Getty Images

A Fox News exclusive report on Thursday claimed Russia may have deployed ballistic missiles within 270 miles of the Ukrainian border. The Iskander missiles captured by satellite photographs have sufficient range to reach Ukrainian territory and are capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads.

Fox described satellite images of a military base near the Russian town of Krasnodar:

The images show an Iskander compound, with a few bunkers and another compound of hangars.

Near the launcher, there is a transloader vehicle which enables quick reloading of the missiles into the launcher.

One of the bunker’s door is open, and another reloading vehicle is seen exiting from it.

The Iskander ballistic missile has a range up to 310 miles, and can carry both unconventional as well as nuclear warheads, putting most of America’s NATO allies at risk.

Satellite photography captured another deployment of Iskander missiles in Ulan-Ude, located in southern Russia near the Mongolian border.

The Iskander is a land-based short-range ballistic missile that gives Russia the type of precision strike capability wielded by the U.S. Navy and Air Force. One concern about the possible demise of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) is that Russia could greatly increase its arsenal of such weapons.

The INF treaty restricts short-range ballistic missiles launched from land much more stringently than air- and sea-launched weapons, a restriction the Russians chafe against because they say the United States has far less need for land-launched short-range weapons than they do.

Fox News cited the capture of three Ukrainian ships and 24 sailors by Russian forces in November and recent warnings about Ukraine possibly losing its “statehood” from a high-ranking Russian official as reasons for concern.

The troubling remarks about Ukrainian sovereignty came from Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, who said this week the Ukrainians are risking their future as an independent state by allowing themselves to be “controlled” by Western powers.

“The Kiev authorities are doing everything to split Ukraine, implementing the West’s scenario to break Ukraine away from Russia, while ignoring the interests of its own people,” Patrushev said. “The continuation of such policy by the Kiev authorities can contribute to the loss of Ukraine’s statehood.“

A salvo of Iskander missiles could inflict a great deal of damage upon the military infrastructure of an adversary like Ukraine even if they were not carrying nuclear warheads. The Iskander carries decoys and moves at very high speed before impact, making it difficult to intercept or control the damage it can suddenly inflict.

The National Interest called the missile a “killer” in a July 2018 analysis because it can quickly take out “surface-to-air missile batteries, enemy short-range missiles, airfields, ports, command and communication centers, factories and other hardened targets” – the very targets a conquering power would seek to neutralize before taking away the “statehood” of its prey.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko boasted this week that the tide is turning in the rebellious Donbas region because Russian tank crews are growing reluctant to assist Moscow-aligned rebels thanks to American-made Javelin anti-tank missiles.

The Trump administration approved sales of Javelin missiles to Ukraine in the spring of 2018, provided the man-portable anti-tank weapons were kept in rear areas and employed only to thwart a Russian armored offensive. There is some corroborating evidence that Russian armor has been pulled back to “training areas” away from the front lines, although the Ukrainians continue expressing concern about tanks massing at bases inside Russia, possibly for an overwhelming armored rush.

The commander of Ukraine’s eastern forces, Lt. Gen. Serhiy Nayev, said on Friday he has seen indications Russia is preparing to attack, including the increased number of Russian troops and aircraft in the area, a surge in the type of satellite communications employed by Russian commanders before major operations, and intensified Russian intelligence-gathering efforts.

Nayev cited the American Javelin missiles, better air defenses, and improved artillery capability for Ukrainian forces as key threat factors that might be holding the Russians at bay. The Iskander missile would be a logical tool for Russia to employ in neutralizing Ukrainian air defenses and artillery.

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