VodkaPundit

The Smoking (Tank) Gun

In this photo taken Tuesday, June 23, 2015, Ukrainian servicemen from the Kiev-2 volunteer battalion guard a position at a frontline in the village of Krymske, east Ukraine. Few places along the front line in east Ukraine see regular fighting as bitter as the village of Krymske. For now, Krymske is in the hands of Ukrainian government forces and the volunteer battalions that fight alongside them. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

In this photo taken Tuesday, June 23, 2015, Ukrainian servicemen from the Kiev-2 volunteer battalion guard a position at a frontline in the village of Krymske, east Ukraine. Few places along the front line in east Ukraine see regular fighting as bitter as the village of Krymske. For now, Krymske is in the hands of Ukrainian government forces and the volunteer battalions that fight alongside them. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Ukrainian loyalist forces used a drone to video Russian troops in Ukraine — and although you might not be exactly shocked, this is a big deal:

What makes this already impressive discovery even more startling is the location—less than 12 kilometers from the Ukrainian front-line settlements of Granitnoye and Novolaspa. This area, to the east of Volnovakha and the Donetsk-Mariupol highway, has seen a slow but steady intensification of violence over recent months, as well as a buildup of Russian troops and armor in separatist-held territory behind the front lines.

What’s significant about where this Russian FOB is located is that it’s sandwiched between (Ukrainian-held Volnovakha) and (separatist-held) Telmanovo, and would therefore play a lead role in any forthcoming Russian offensive on Mariupol, the port city on the Sea of Azov which also happens to the economic powerhouse in the Donetsk region. The separatists have nothing comparable to Mariupol in their possession and they want it, as Alexander Zakharchenko, the head of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic, has stated repeatedly to journalists.

The fighting this spring has been quieter than many (including me) expected. Is this FOB a sign that Putin is ready to attempt to force a decision? Or will he only heat things up to a simmer over the warmer months like he did last year?

It had seemed like the latter was more likely, but now there’s just no telling.

(Cue the Putin apologists in the comments section in five… four… three…)