Russian forces have emptied out a key base in northern Crimea, recent satellite imagery reviewed by CNN shows. The facility, near the village of Medvedivka and close to the border of Kherson, housed a significant number of Russian armor.
Imagery from the European Union’s Sentinel 2 satellite from January 21 shows a large footprint of Russian equipment. Higher resolution Maxar images from February 11 reveals dozens of armored vehicles, including tanks and artillery pieces.
Newer imagery taken by the EU’s Sentinel 2 satellite reveals most of those vehicles are no longer present at the base.
It wasn’t immediately clear why Moscow relocated the equipment or where to, but earlier in the month, Russian-installed officials in Crimea signaled that they expected a Ukrainian counteroffensive to target the peninsula.
“I think the decision to build defensive structures in Crimea and on the approaches to the peninsula was correct and justified,” the Russian-appointed Crimean governor Sergei Aksyonov said on April 11.
Maxar imagery from February 11 to February 16 shows a large concentration of defensive structures near Medvedivka, including a network of trenches and wedge-shaped anti-tank concrete barriers known as dragon’s teeth. One Maxar image from January 3 shows the fortifications were much smaller at the beginning of the year.
“In general, I can say that our armed forces have built a modern, deeply echeloned defense,” Aksyonov said. “This does not mean that they will necessarily be used for their intended purpose.”
“We had to prepare for any scenario, and we did,” he added.
In light of Aksyonov’s comments, experts have suggested the withdrawal of Russian military equipment from the base in Medvedivka may be related to defensive operations ahead of a Ukrainian counteroffensive.