Ukrainian militia claim to have spotted 'Russian military camp'

A Ukrainian volunteer battalion claims to have spotted what they say is a Russian military camp housing Russian-made vehicles, tanks and equipment in a separatist-controlled area situated between Mariupol and Donetsk in the east of the country.

Two drone surveillance missions conducted by the Dnipro-1 volunteer battalion, which was set up by the Ukrainian oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi and is funded by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, have captured footage of the neatly ordered base. Experts confirmed that it multiple Russian manufactured T-72 tanks, T-12 antitank cannons, petrol lorries, tents and other vehicles appear to be stored at the camp.

The training camp, is based between the Ukrainian-held town of Volnovakha and separatist-held Telmanovo, located between the cities of Mariupol and Donetsk, both of which are currently controlled by Ukrainian forces.

According to Dnipro-1, between 20 May and 4 June, barracks, training grounds, a command center and a large expanse of connected trenches had all been speedily completed.

Footage from the two drone missions was posted on YouTube yesterday. English subtitles describe the footage, with the battalion concluding that the plans for choosing this location for the base within the rebel-held territory was a strategic move. From this area supplies, weapons and military personnel could be moved easily across the border from Russia, but also to both Donetsk and Mariupol if necessary.

Dnipro-1 say that the rate at which the camp was built as well as the materials and equipment present at the base imply that the decision to create and develop the camp was made at a high level of Russian command.

Igor Sutyagin, a Russian military specialist at the defence and security think tank RUSI, identified the tanks in the video stills as older versions of the Russian T-72 tanks but said he could not confirm, based on this equipment, what the Russian involvement was.

However, he highlighted that the layout of the training camp is significantly different from rebel camps previously constructed in Ukraine. "The construction of the camp is not built in the rebel style. It is definitely army style and there is no other army in the area," referring to the fact that it's solely rebel forces who operate in this area.

Although Russia has denied involvement in the Ukraine conflict, the type of equipment and weapons identified in the video has previously been touted as evidence of Russia's involvement in the country. Experts at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) told the BBC last year that footage of a T-72 tank filmed in Ukraine strongly suggested Russia was sending equipment to the country.

The newly identified military camp is located close to the Donetsk-Mariupol highway which is a strategic point of transport and supply between the cities of Mariupol and Donetsk and currently controlled by Kiev forces. The Interpreter, a news source run by Pavel Khodorkovsky, son of Russian opposition figure Mikhail Khodorkovsky, has claimed that there have been a series of recent attacks on the road as well as an increased movement of supplies across the Russian border near this region throughout June, although Newsweek was unable to verify these claims.

Were the separatists to gain a foothold in this area they may be able to cut off the supply route between the two cities, as well as cutting off the Ukrainian military in Mariupol from northern strategic support.