One base to rule them all – five facts you should know about Russia’s main invasion hub

On January 6, spotted that the latest updated Google Earth satellite images revealed / included the base, many people knew about, but nobody could ever locate due to Russian army security measure to not leak meaningful footage of it and the lack of recent satellite footage from the area.

The Russian invasion, that started in April 2014 and continues to that very day includes hundreds of tanks, apcs, MLRS and other vehicles as well as thousands of shells, missiles and last but not least tens of thousands of Russian army personal as well as Russian army-trained “volunteers” or rather paid mercenaries / invasion troops. Such invasion can not be planned and organized from Moscow alone or via regular army bases, which are either too far away from the Ukrainian border or by far not large enough to handle the logistics necessary for such an operation. It needs (at least) one major logistical military hub. This hub was revealed by the latest Google Earth satellite image update.

The following article answers 5 questions, you should know about when talking about that base in particular and the sophistication and organized malice of the Russian policy towards Ukraine in general.


1. Where is the base?

The base is located in a strategically brilliant position. 23 km north east of Taganrog and 30 km north west of Rostov-on-Don, it is in close range of several major Russian army hubs, including military bases, airports but also civilian supply structures for the daily life of the thousands of troops inside the base.

rostov taganrog

Strategic position in Russia

However, the major significance of the localization of the base appears, when we look at it in relation to the deployment zone in Ukraine. From the very south to the very north of the today mostly-occupied areas in Donbas, namely the centers of Mariupol, Donetsk and Luhansk, the distance is almost exactly 130 km, meaning an offensive- as well as quick reaction potential at all sectors of the front within the same period of time. At the same time, the base if 48km from the nearest Ukrainian border point, giving it a “safety distance” to possible counter attacks.


Strategic position in relation to Ukraine — map source: Ukr. ATO


2. How large is the base?

It is HUGE … The north-south expansion of the base is exactly 6.5 kilometers, so 4 miles. There are several concentrations of buildings, tents and vehicles all along that axis. The east-west expansion depends on what you regard as being a “military base”. In a width of 600 meters, we have the hard infrastructure of the base, again including buildings and vehicles plus positioned artillery pieces and much more (for more, read 4.). In a width of 2 kilometers, we can see extensive tracks, probably from intense training exercises and scattered current and former structures, which were used as forward positions and observation points. In its total width of 6.5 km, there are multiple craters visible, likely from artillery and tank shelling.

So in conclusion, we have a built up infrastructure area of 4 km², a vehicle training ground of 10 km² and a firing range of another 30 km². Adding all this to a coherent military installation, we find an area of some 40 km² which as an example is 4 times bigger than the airport of London Heathrow.

base perimeters

Dimensions of the base


3. When was the base established?

The area in question was last scanned by available satellites in October 2013, so 4 months before the Russian invasion of Crimea started and half a year, before Donbas was for the first time attacked and occupied by Russian forces. At images from that time, nothing is to see that would indicate the soon emergence of a large military complex or only a new road or farm on the concerned field. One year later, a complex military installation exists at this large field. So given the fact, it would need at least 1-2 months to build the entire infrastructure (including fixed buildings), the date of the base formation could be in August 2014.


Comparison Left: October 2013; Right: October 2014

But there are hints, indicating an even earlier start of construction and use. Between the developed parts of the base, large areas with former formations can be seen. What happened to the units in these areas? They were either given up, moved to another – the current – October 2014 location OR – which is the most likely version – were completely deployed as invasion army battle groups to Ukraine. Three examples are given below. Again: Remember that all these major installations were built up and removed between October 2013 and October 2014.

old fields

former battle group positions inside the base

Taking into account that it took also 1-2 months to build these developments and another few weeks to remove them once again, it must be concluded that the base was built up and used at least since June 2014, possibly even earlier. This would mean that all escalation, especially the one from late August, costing over 1000 Ukrainian troops their lives, was planned long before, showing that Russia had plans for a major escalation even before the Ukrainian army moved into the mostly unarmed separatist-held cities in early summer last year. It also shows that after annexing Crimea, Russia never planned to rethink its policies and lied all along, claiming it was finished with its expansionism inside Ukraine.


4. Which military hardware is inside the base?

In brief: All it needs to lead a war and all, we saw and see entering Ukraine from Russia.

There are several concentrations of Russian army vehicles of the same type all across the outlined base parameters. However, we are talking about commercially detailed satellite images, so there is it is possible for experts to identify the general model of a weapon system, but not to distinguish between different versions of it (like BTR-70 or BTR-80). Nonetheless, I have identified groups of KamAZ and Ural trucks, BMP-1/ BMP-2, BTR-70/BTR-80, MT-LB, MT-LBu, Msta-S and Msta-B, BM-21/27/30 and last but not least T-64/T-72. The following image is only one example of one battle group, being stationed at the base.


Weapon systems

The next image seems extremely interesting as it shows several multy launch rocket systems, but also something, which looks like sophisticated air defense systems, possibly the SA-10 “Grumble”. However, this can not be said for sure as we are talking about satellite images with a maximum resolution of maybe 1 meter large objects.


MLRS plus AA systems?!

Summarizing the vehicles and weapons systems at the front it can – once again – be excluded – that this is any kind of regular or defensive military installation. It houses – as I said before – battle groups, ready to be deployed as punchy forces in a neighboring country, leading to the last question.


5. What is the main purpose of the base?

While such question could (or even should) not be answered out of the blue, the first four points of this analytic article qualified it for an informed answer. Looking at the position, size, age and equipment of the base, only one conclusion is possible: This is the one base to rule them all. It was established and still is operated for one reason: To keep the invasion and ongoing occupation of neighboring Ukraine running.

Its current and former visiting forces suggest the assumption that it is BOTH a RF armed forces-led training ground for “voluntary”–> paid Russian invasion forces and the small number of real Ukrainian separatists where they can learn / refresh their driving and firing skills before going to war AND a “traditional” Russian army base, serving as a bridgehead for all major offensive operations and a backup- and retreat area for resupplies and reinforcements. Just today, the Ukrainian defense minister said that 7.500 Russian army troops are serving in Ukraine at the moment, being constantly rotated with their entire equipment. Now we know to / from where and that fresh battle groups are always waiting to be deployed.

All in all, the – at some point inevitable – revelation of this large key base is another reminder that Russia is not hiding its efforts in its war on Ukraine anymore and probably never did. It is also a reminder that the mainstream media and most Western – and Ukrainian! – politicians are painting an entirely wrong picture of the situation. We are not facing a “covert war”, nor have there ever been “Russian-backed rebels” in Ukraine. What we see since almost 11 months is an aggressive war by the Russian Federation vs. the sovereign state of Ukraine, with all organisation and logistics such war necessarily needs.


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30 thoughts on “One base to rule them all – five facts you should know about Russia’s main invasion hub

  1. Reblogged this on The Imaginary Club and commented:
    Added as a note to self and constant reminder that mainstream media and diplomacy has failed yet again in providing rudimentary facts about Russian aggression in Ukraine. This is well worth your read and comes highly recommended.

  2. The satellite imagery brings up some interesting questions.As you say these are commercial satellite pictures, but the US has the ability to constantly observe this entire area, perhaps in near real time and acquire much more detailed and frequent imagery. I would guess that that has been the case since Putin invaded Crimea. The question arises as to whether the US actually has been observing the movements and bases of the RF military and if so has it been sharing that intelligence with Ukraine’s military intelligence? If not, why not?

    The end conclusion is that both the US and the EU probably have had detailed intelligence on what has actually been going on, but play it cool to avoid a perception of military confrontation with Russia. They don’t want to reveal their hand for a number of reasons, but in the process have allowed their silence to give some credence to Russia’s big lies in the media. “Troops and armor? We know nothing !” It also is revealing as to how the EU and the US want to keep an arm’s length from the conflict and limit their support to Ukraine to diplomatic measures such as the sanctions, which without the concurrent surprise drop in oil prices and the corresponding fall of the ruble, would have been some rather weak tea. No arms, no intelligence, limited financial help.
    In that respect, the EU and US are like the joke about a kid asked if he likes broccoli. He says I love broccoli, but not enough to eat it. Similarly the EU and the US are allies of Ukraine, but not enough to do everything they could for Ukraine.
    Ukraine has had a tough row to hoe.

    • Nice comment. I suspect some of the reluctance to share intel with the Ukrainians may stem from the porous nature of the Ukrainian security structure. You are absolutely on target with your observation regarding how the Russians have managed to fill the info-space. The unwillingness of the US/West to publicize their intel has given the Kremlin the upper hand in shaping the narrative. I saw recent Russian poll data which stated that the overwhelming majority of Russians believe that it was the Ukrainians (or the US) who were responsible for the downing of Malaysian Air #17.

      • Overwhelming majority of Russians also believe that US was responsible for the start of the First World War. Majority of Russians is a good indicator of what is certainly NOT truth.

  3. Some suggestions.
    1. “The Russian invasion, that started…”. Add “of Ukraine”. “The Russian invasion of Ukraine, that started”. Direct and clear articulation is one of the most important things in all of this.
    2. Provide direct links to Google satellite images or to and of such images. Article just must have links to sources.

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  11. I don’t think those are SA-10 (S-300P), as there are no associated radars (ie CLAMSHELL etc).
    Have a look here:

    They actually look like engineer eqpt, such as cranes. But I’ll have a look again at them.

    Big thing is… Note the sub- unit parking patterns… Groups of ten (10) BMP’s/BTR’s = Motor Rifle Company, same with tanks (in 10 or 13-tank tank companies), artillery (guns or MLRS) – normally in 6 or 8-gun batteries. BM-27 (9P140) is 18 per battalion, but have twice that number in transloaders (rocket reload vehicles for MLRS). Overall though, these are defacto ‘battle-groups’ – battalion-size, combined arms groups, transiting through…

    Hope this helps a bit.


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  13. Let’s start from the phrase : “It must be concluded that the base was built up and used at least since June 2014, possibly even earlier”
    There was biggest military training of Southern army formation, with 65k+ participants, where 17600 were in Rostov oblast, information was publicly available the whole time. Training ended in October.
    We see well organized and well supplied army on these satellite photos.
    Now, what we see in Ukraine?
    “Russian army in Ukraine” struggle for months against freshly enlisted boys (Ukraine plan to start 4th mobilization now) with 20+ years old tech(they use USSR weapon, their spendings on army were non-existent for years).
    Do you really think that “ukrainian army” can fight against modern army? They can’t and they don’t.
    Maybe Russia sends unequipped soldiers? Thousands of them? And nobody tried to desert army to save their life because they are hopeless against artillery? It happened during war with Georgia, why there are no such cases in Ukraine?
    Actually, there are backward cases – Ukrainian forces join to militants or flee to Russia and ask for citizenship.
    Maybe spies and surveillance intercept orders from Moscow to “russian army in Donbass”? No, no such news. Maybe they use equipment which encrypted better than Merkel’s? Even recruits?

    @Ray Finch
    I saw recent Russian poll data which stated that the overwhelming majority of Russians believe that it was the Ukrainians (or the US) who were responsible for the downing of Malaysian Air #17.

    When Ukrainians destroyed civilian jet last time
    it took 10 days to find evidences and name rocket type. In case with Malaysian Air after 6 f*g months we haven’t hear about case of destruction. “Multiple objects with high kinetic energy”. Gunfire? Meteorites? Buk missile? AA missile? Bomb with shrapnel?
    This photo shows that “buk missile” made many round holes in cockpit with the centre on pilot.

    But case nonetheless was used to put more sanctions on Russia, it happened very conveniently right before meeting.

    • Your Wikipedia source is alright, however it fails to mention that the 2001 incident occurred when Ukrainian and Russian military forces were conducting a joint exercise that involved the firing of dozens of surface-to-air missiles.

      You might do a little more background before you use past tragedies as “proof” that Ukrainians were responsible for downing MH17. Even though you will will never be convinced of Russian/separatist complicity, but you should review this report:

      • 1. Due to recoil of rocket launches, Buks use crude radars and need support of command machine to hit targets at 6,5k+ km, Boeing was at 9,5k km height.
        2. Without guidance Buk technically can hit target like boeing if it knows exact course, height, speed and angle where target would appear. It would have 5 minutes to do launch if target crosses diameter of radar circle, even less if it is by Chorde.

        If we take version of Buk as primary, then…
        You have seen information, that MH was rerouted and its talks with Ukrainian dispatcher still classified, right? Maybe someone named himself “friend of militants in enemy’s circle”, rerouted MH to death and gave “hot info” about “tasty candy on the course from xxx to yyy”. If it was destroyed like that, this “friend” deserves death sentence, imo.
        3. If MH was downed by buk, it would’ve appeared on the news instantly with the first hard evidence(like photo of Buk’s shrapnel). Hard evidence of that calibre would’ve caused revolts against killers, it could’ve open road for more sanctions, but… Nothing.
        4. Another strange thing – Buk’s rocket leaves distinctive plumage, which dissipates in 30 minutes. There are couple of smartphone video records of just dropped Boeing with still burning grass, and nobody mentions earth-air plumage. I would’ve recorded triangle of smoke(Buk=>jet, Jet=>earth), if I was there. Like every sane person would, probably.
        5. USA haven’t published photos from their own satellite. Why?
        6. Another interesting thing to consider
        After preliminary report on MH which was on the level of “Putin about Kursk”- Dutch got gold from USA
        Germany couldn’t make revision of its gold, let alone get it back (which they desperately tried for years)

        Personally, current attempts to blame Buk look like WMD in Iraq. Hey, there are photos which show nothing, believe in our description! There are videos from unknown locations! This photo of babushka confirms that in this location there were no Buk! WAS it destroyed by Buk in the first place?

        This document shows nationalities in Russia. Ukrainians (Украинцы) are at page 19.
        Named themselves as Ukrainian 2 millions of people. They have spouses, kids, friends, so at the very least 10 millions of people in Russia are related to Ukraine by blood and soul. Do you see multimillion meetings in Russia like one in Paris? “Stop the war”, blah-blah. No.
        There was one with 10k people in 12M city during spring (not everyone supports case with Crimea), last attempt of liberal-idiots, which would believe that Putin shot himself into Boeing because he is the antchrist😉 worse than Obama, haven’t gathered 500 during Autumn.

        “Why?”, you would think
        Look at this graph:

        While every other post-soviet country tried to live and climb from depression, Ukraine dropped into the hands of oligarchs, which spent years of independence on selling USSR heritage.
        Weapon went to Africa and Latin America, plants to “investors” which closed rivals instead, land and crops to China…
        People had hopes, but… They revolted against their first president, second, third, fourth (yeah, they revolted against EVERY president because EVERY president was corrupted to guts).
        Their current president is a billionaire, and he was a minister in the government of previous corrupted president. Billionaire. Under corrupted president. Does it ring something?

        This graph shows population of Ukraine (Nice growth for oppressed country, right?) –

        1994 – first revolt. Then people started to leave this shithole because it has no hope and no future.
        People of Donbass revolted because they tired of imbeciles in Kiev.

      • ” There are couple of smartphone video records of just dropped Boeing with still burning grass,
        and nobody mentions earth-air plumage. I would’ve recorded triangle of smoke(Buk=>jet, Jet=>earth),
        if I was there. Like every sane person would, probably.”–video–kak-rebenok-iz-Donbassa-raduetsja-sbitomu-samoletu

        “Named themselves as Ukrainian 2 millions of people. They have spouses, kids, friends, so at the very least 10 millions of people in Russia are related to Ukraine by blood and soul. Do you see multimillion meetings in Russia like one in Paris? “Stop the war”, blah-blah. No. There was one with 10k people in 12M city during spring”

        You, Gennady, seem to know a lot about Russia. It’s strange you’re asking, because you should know that:

        1) In Russia there are huge pressure on people to prevent them from making any meetings. Here are just some examples which came to my mind (and I do not even live in Russia to watch that closely, I’m from Ukraine).

        At any meeting, which opposes government, some people are usually detained. Even without any specific reason.

        To gather onto a meeting, people in Russia must ask permission from government several days before doing so.

        People which actively oppose russian government are threatened or jailed.

        People are being detained even for holding invisible signs.

        One-person “meeting” against detaining children.

        etc. etc.

        Most of media in Russia belongs to either to
        – government (“ВГТРК”,,
        – Gazprom (,
        – people close to Putin (Национальная_Медиа_Группа)

        Propaganda is huge in Russia. All those lies people hear from russian TV every day really works.

        People in Russia not only do not know the truth about what’s happening in Ukraine. TV and other russian media not only don’t tell the truth, instead they’re telling invalid truth, and most of people do believe. The media does not even try to always tell things which make sense. Instead they throw huge amount of (invalid) information, so that some small percent of people would believe one lie about Ukraine, another percent of people would believe in another lie, and then after many such lies, most of people are brainwashed.

        People in Russia just cannot assume that the lies from governrment TV might be THAT HUGE. And even if you know, when watching TV, you’re still trying to find at least some pieces of truth, but there’s so many lies, being told without any falsifiable evidence, told with confident tone by professional narrators, so you just start believing in that BS.

        I tried to watch it, it really works. But then you turn it off, think, look into other sources and realize you’ve been brainwashed. And that is only if you’re actively seek for more reliable information. Most people don’t.

        Many people here in Ukraine had also been watching russian TV, news. Many people stopped, when they saw that it was lying to them. But even here in Ukraine, there are still some people which do believe in what russian TV says. And in regions under control of Russia or “the rebels” people have no other option rather that watch Russian TV, because that’s one of the first things the “rebels” did when they came to new territories – they turned off Ukrainian TV and turned on Russian TV.

        In Ukraine people even organized a site, where they daily(!) refute “news” from Russian TV. And they do it for almost a year, daily.

        Another example of how huge russian propaganda is – people made a list, with every point being an obviously absurd myth or fake news, told either on russian TV, or spread massively in internet. Absurd things like:
        – a boy being crucified by ukrainian troops in Slaviansk (shown on Russian TV, local citizens didn’t hear of any such cases)
        – mother of the crucified boy, being tied to a tank and pulled through the square in Slaviansk (in Slaviansk there is no such square)
        – a ukrainian teacher ordered children to kill bullfinches, because they’re colored in russian flag colors
        – cannibalism in Ukraine
        – an old woman raped by ukrainian soldiers, while having epileptic seizure, while being watched by people in bus nearby
        – ukrainian government denied citizens to celebrate New Year
        – people taken into ukrainian National Guard, right from trains
        – a story about crying cow
        – EU requires from ukraine to open brothels for animals
        – soldiers are welded in ukrainian tanks, so that they’d not escape
        etc. etc. hundreds of absurd lies about ukrainian army, about EU, about what happens in Ukraine

        There are many other examples of russian propaganda and Russia’s informational war against Ukraine, which is a part of other kinds of hybrid war Russia is doing (along with economic aggression, gas aggression, trading aggression, political aggression, etc.).

        Back to the Boeing. I personally did not see any 100% convincing evidence about what has happened with the Boeing. The only reason I personally believe that the Boeing was hit by “rebels” is because I personally saw a message from the commander of “rebels” (at that time), about a plane being hit by them, within an hour after the crash, before it was known that the plane is civilian. And then when they got to know that the plane is civilian, they’ve deleted the message, and then it was still in google cache, etc. Then “rebels” started to deny everything.

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