Satellite images from Sunday obtained by Fox News confirms that Russia has deployed an S-400 surface-to-air missile battery at Dzhankoy airbase in Crimea, roughly 19 miles from the Russia-Ukraine border. The photos confirm Russia's planned deployment which we reported on Wednesday.
The intelligence report by ImageSat International indicates that the infrastructure for the S-400 battery was prepared in recent months, a long time before last weekend's naval encounters that sparked new tension between Russia and Ukraine.
The images showed a bare ground in April 2018, and construction by November 10 – two weeks before the recent escalation. -Fox News
The S-400's eight launchers can be seen in four groups located in the southwest region of the airbase, while two radar systems are deployed in two nearby vehicles - one of which is suspected to be carrying S-400 missiles.
Days after Russia captured several Ukrainian naval vessels along with 24 sailors, Moscow announced the deployment of the S-400 system, escalating the conflict in the region. Ukraine, which is now in a state of martial law over what President Petro Poroshenko calls the "threat of a full-scale war with Russia," says that "the number of [Russian] units that have been deployed along our border has grown dramatically."
Though likely the plans were already in motion, the timing of the S-400 deployment announcement is designed to send a strong message to the West, which is also building up its forces as both the UK and US are reportedly injecting more military hardware and troops into Ukraine.
The S-400 mobile missile system has an effective range of nearly 250 miles and is intended to bring down a variety of aerial threats - "from aircraft to cruise and ballistic missiles," according to Fox.
The system made its debut in 2007, succeeding the S-200 and S-300 batteries. According to CNBC, "the Russian-made S-400 is capable of engaging a wider array of targets, at longer ranges and against multiple threats simultaneously," vs. US-made systems.
In terms of capability, one source noted that while there is no perfect weapon, the S-400 eclipses even THAAD, America's missile defense crown jewel.
When asked why nations seek to buy the S-400 instead of America's Patriot or THAAD systems, one of the people with knowledge of the intelligence report explained that foreign militaries aren't willing to stick with the cumbersome process of buying weapons from the U.S. government. -CNBC
During this weekend's G20 meeting in Buenos Aires, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that it was "too early" to release the Ukrainian sailors, saying that it was necessary to hold the sailors captive while a legal case was constructed that would show that the three Ukrainian naval vessels were in violation of Russian territorial waters - and that the ship's logs would reveal their attempt to cross the Kerch strait from the Black Sea into the Sea of Azov, which is enclosed by Russia, the Crimean peninsula and mainland Ukraine.
When asked if the Kremlin might be willing to exchange the sailors for Russians detained by Ukraine, Putin replied: "We are not considering a swap and Ukraine did not raise this issue, and it’s too early to talk about that. They are still being investigated. We need to establish the fact that this was a provocation by the Ukrainian government and we need to put all these things on paper."
Putin also suggested that the incident was part of a wider pattern of provocation by Kiev.
"The current Ukrainian leadership is not interested in resolving this at all," said the Russian leader. "As long as they stay in power, war will continue. Why? Because when you have provocations, such hostilities like what just happened in the Black Sea … you can always use war to justify your economic failures."