Russian Invasion Strategies: Chronology and Analysis

Russian peacekeepers in Ukraine

Updated on August 22 – 18:30 GMT.

Since late February 2014, Russia invades Ukraine with arms, mercenaries and regular army – first in Crimea, and then in the eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions. Undeclared and undercover, but constant and unstoppable violations of the border by Russian military vehicles and personnel are designed to fool Ukrainian people and authorities, as well as the rest of the world, and demonstrate to everybody that Russia doesn’t undermine the sovereign country or conduct any war.

In his intentions to restore the might of the Moscow-led “Russian world” with Ukraine, as its part, Putin tries to use the whole variety of war strategies and tactics – ranging from the political, diplomatic and propaganda pressure on Kyiv’s government and the Ukrainian nation to military, terror and counter-intelligence operations on Ukraine’s territory to undermine resistance and sovereignty. Not every Kremlin’s aggressive action could be revealed and cracked immediately, using open sources. However, we could see them after some time by their consequences. As long as Putin and Co. fails in implementing their every strategy, the Ukrainian government and military get more and more lessons and data to strengthen defense, and cast out the aggressor.

NOTE: In this blog post I would like to analyse the Kremlin’s war tricks. This text is open for updating, because war is still goes on and Kremlin’s strategic approaches are transforming dynamically. The bunch of other ways to undermine the Ukrainian political system from inside will be the subject of another post.

  • August 22 invasion in Luhansk region under purported “humanitarian” auspices

Russian humanitarian aid convoyFirst 30 trucks out of 300 of Russian so-called “humanitarian aid convoy” entered the Ukraine’s territory on August 22 via the ruined and thus uncontrolled Ukrainian border check point Izvaryne in Luhansk region. Those trucks were not accompanied by the International Red Cross representatives and weren’t cleared by the Ukrainian customs. Therefore Ukraine’s government treats this fact as a direct invasion.

The moment for such an invasion was chosen deliberately – in the eve of Ukraine’s Independence Day on August 24, first in the last 6 years visit of the German chancellor to Kyiv on August 23, and the planned trilateral EU – Ukraine – Customs Union led by Russia – meeting in Minsk on August 26, where Perto Poroshenko could meet Vladimir Putin face to face. If Ukraine will destroy the “humanitarian convoy”, it will darken celebrations and let Kremlin an opportunity to reject any Western peace initiative.

The Russian humanitarian convoy was relocated to the uncontrolled sector of the Ukrainian border after it was not allowed to cross the border in Kharkiv region on August 11. Putin’s “humanitarian invasion” strategy was initially suspicious. And its propaganda effect was declined even more due to counter propaganda measures – both internal and external. Ukraine caught hold of this solely Kremlin initiative, sending its own aid convoy to the eastern Ukraine and promoting how Poland and Sweden send their aid to Ukraine as well. The many Western journalists, based in Moscow, followed the “white convoy” on Russian territory and revealed that most trucks are half-empty, and aid consists of primarily water and salt.

  • August 11 humanitarian pretext 

Russian Humanitarian convoyIn 3 days, the same convoy of Russian trucks were repainted in white color and appeared at the Ukrainian border in Kharkiv region. They were not allowed to enter Ukraine this time too, despite Russians tried to assure everybody that they act under approval by the International Red Cross. In return, deputy head of the Presidential Administration Valeriy Chaly emphasized that the passage of cargo with humanitarian aid would be conducted through the checkpoints on the state border controlled by Ukraine.

Then President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin warned that convoy will enter Ukraine anyways via uncontrolled border section in the anti-terrorist operation zone. He sent them there unilaterally in 10 days.

  • August 8 peacekeeping pretext

Russian peacekeepers in UkraineOn late evening of August 8, the large convoy of Russian trucks followed by the military vehicles with peacekeepers’ insignias and Red Cross flags tried to cross the border of Ukraine in undefined sector. According to the Presidential administration statement, the Ukrainian authorities convoy didn’t get the permission neither from the Ukrainian government, not from the International Red Cross, as well as they didn’t pass the customs clearance. It was stopped by the Ukrainian border guards according to immediate order, issued by the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko.

This impudent Russia’s action was condemned by the US President Barack Obama and German chancellor Angela Merkel. The two leaders agreed that any Russian intervention in Ukraine, even under purported “humanitarian” auspices, without the formal, express consent and authorization of the government of Ukraine is unacceptable, violates international law, and will provoke additional consequences for Russia.

  • July 18 pretext of mass murder of Russians

MH17 Boeing 777 Malaysia AirlinesAs Ukraine’s Security Service revealed during investigation of the July 17 downing of the Malaysian Boeing-777, flight MH17 with 298 people on board, the Russian authorities planned to use the disaster with the Russian passenger airliner over Ukraine as a legitimate pretext for invasion on the next day. But, by the rare coincidence, the Russia-supported terrorists in Donetsk region mixed up the air targets (using the Russia-supplied SA-11 ‘Buk” anti-aircraft missile launcher), and didn’t shoot down the Russian Aeroflot plane en route Moscow  – Larnaca. Instead, they downed the Malaysian plane.

This outrageous international crime cancelled such appalling invasion plan of Kremlin, and forced world governments to turn their eyes to the military crisis in eastern Ukraine, as well as led to the greater US and EU sanctions against regime in Russia.

  • Arms & troops supplies

On August 20, there was a rumor about the large convoy of Russian military vehicles and 2,000 troops which entered the sealed off Luhansk city. Despite circulation in the Ukrainian media this rumor wasn’t confirmed independently. But sources in the ATO said that small Russian military convoys enter Ukraine via unprotected border point Izvarino almost every day in the night.

Here is another Russian war strategy of four objectives:

  1. to keep up the unprotected border section
  2. to sent troops and arms by small portions every day
  3. to keep the conflict burning, undermining Ukraine’s capabilities and perspectives
  4. not to provoke the West for further sanctions, military support to Ukraine or active response

Russia has no opportunity to supply the heavy arms by Azov Sea or by air, therefore sealing the border and cutting terrorists from land supply corridor is the urgent task for Ukrainian forces to succeed in ATO.

  • Russian troops allocation and trainings at the border

In May – July, Russia allocated over 20,000 military personnel at the Ukrainian border and conducted several military trainings. The presence of forces at the border is a permanent threat to Ukraine to force Kyiv’s government to step back and Ukrainians to fear and do mistakes, as well as the opportunity for Putin to conduct invasion fairly quickly, grabbing as much territory as possible until Ukraine will stop his troops somewhere.

It’s hard to imagine that 20,000 troops could occupy and keep control for a long time over the large eastern and southern part of Ukraine. But such a quantity may be enough for targeted raids at the strategic facilities to destroy them or for occupation of not-liberated yet Luhansk and Donetsk. This is why terrorists destroyed the stationary air-defense systems in those areas in May-June, and continue attacks at the local airports, trying to create conditions for invasion by air.

So, this strategy has the following objectives:

  1. to allocate arms & train troops to make invasion, supply or raids possible
  2. to use in propaganda purposes both internally and externally, intimidating government in Kyiv and distracting the West
  3. to stop & eliminate terrorists who flee from Ukraine and could be a threat for Russian security
  • Violations of airspace to create pretext

Every week the National Security and Defense Council reports that the Russian military helicopters and jets violate the Ukrainian airspace over Luhansk region up to 15 km. These violations have two purposes:

  1. to provoke Ukrainians to shot down the aircraft (and use this as a pretext for open invasion)
  2. to deliver military supplies to terrorists, as well as maintain the air channel for evacuating the top commanders

In August, all top leaders of the rebellion either resigned from the “governments” of so-called Donetsk and Luhansk “People’s Republics”, or disappeared from public view: Alexander BorodaiIgor Girkin (Strelkov), Pavel Gubarev, Denis PushilinValery Bolotov, Igor Bezler, Vyacheslav Ponomarev, etc. The exact locations of many of them are unknown, because from time to time Russian propaganda leaks controversial information about their fate, which is hard or impossible to verify independently.

  • Propaganda manipulations in the UN Security Council 

Russia Churkin UN Security Council UkraineFor several times in June and July Russia initiated meetings of the United Nations Security Council about crisis in Ukraine, either trying to assure the world to stop anti-terrorist operation by the Ukrainian government, or get a permission for invasion of its peacekeeping mission. Such efforts were intense until July 17, when the Malaysian airliner was shot down.  The UNSC realized the international threat from the Russia-supported militants in eastern Ukraine and was shocked by the Kremlin’s direct military help to them. Therefore, more key global players – like Netherlands and Australia – joined the United States in efforts to contain Russia from further escalation.

Then Kremlin switched to another topic, insisting on the need of saving lives of civilians in terrorist-controlled areas, blocked by the advancing Ukrainian forces. The least way, which left in Russian set of diplomatic strategies, is the humanitarian aid.


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