Thursday, August 21, 2014

Ukraine Taking Drastic Measures to Diminish the Risk of an ‘Odessa People’s Republic’ | The Jamestown Foundation

By: Dumitru Minzarari


At the end of July, Ukrainian border guards reported three instances of reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) from Transnistria violating Ukrainian air space (, August, 1). The drones were seen over the administrative border area between Ukraine’s regions of Odessa and Vinnitsya, as well as around the town of Bolgrad, southern Odessa region (, August 5).

The Ukrainian leadership appears significantly concerned about its border with the breakaway Moldovan region of Transnistria. It has brought reinforcements, digging in armored vehicles at the border-crossing checkpoints. Ukrainian border guards also began digging what looks like an anti-tank ditch intended to traverse the entire 450-kilometer frontier with Transnistria (, July 26). But how justified are such concerns?

Moldova’s Transnistria region is de facto under the control of Russian military forces. According to official data, the Russian military in Transnistria consist of some 1,500 troops of the Operational Group of Russian Forces (Operativnaya Gruppa Rossiyskih Voysk—OGRV) (, April 4), which are augmented by over 400 Russian “peacekeepers” (, accessed August 4). However, the Russian military and their Tiraspol proxies have provided the same numbers to the press for the last ten years. Neither the OGRV forces, nor the Transnistrian military have been inspected by international observers, so this data cannot be verified.

Nonetheless, it is still possible to make some educated estimates about the number of Russian troops in Transnistria by considering the existing structure of Russian military units and their expected missions. The OGRV is subordinated to the Western Operational Strategic Command of the Russian Federation. The Group’s officially stated mission, besides conducting the peacekeeping operation and protecting Soviet-era military ammunition depots, includes reacting to the changing situation in the region under guidance from the Armed Forces General Staff.

Given its tasks and history, one would expect the OGRV to be at least the size of an independent brigade. The “independent” qualifier means that the brigade is also able to effectively conduct combat missions alone, as a self-sufficient military formation. Indeed, the OGRV continues to quite closely resemble the structure of a brigade-level motorized infantry unit, which the Russian military adopted after its 2008–2010 reforms as the basic independent tactical unit.

The Group appears to have at least three motorized infantry battalions, two of which consecutively rotate as peacekeepers. Another useful indicator for understanding the OGRV’s structure involves the size and equipment of its signals units, which provide radio, wire, switching and satellite communication both to the Group commanding structure and its subordinated elements. Earlier this year, the OGRV conducted a training exercise for its communications troops, involving over 300 personnel and some 40 items of mobile and stationary communication equipment (, May 23).

Complete story at - Ukraine Taking Drastic Measures to Diminish the Risk of an ‘Odessa People’s Republic’ | The Jamestown Foundation

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