* NATO says photos back up warnings about Russian military
* First Russian troops able to be on the move within 12
By Adrian Croft
MONS, Belgium, April 10 NATO unveiled satellite
photographs on Thursday it said showed Russian deployments of
some 40,000 troops near the Ukrainian frontier, along with long
lines of tanks, armoured vehicles, artillery and aircraft ready
"This is a force that is very capable, at high readiness,
and, as we have illustrated through the imagery, is close to
routes and lines of communication," British Brigadier Gary
Deakin said at a briefing at NATO military headquarters at Mons
in southern Belgium.
"It has the resources to be able to move quickly into
Ukraine if it was ordered to do so," he said. If Russian
political leaders took a decision to send forces into Ukraine,
the first Russian forces could be on the move within 12 hours.
NATO has spotted Russian forces at more than 100 different
sites close to the Ukraine border, he said.
The Western alliance displayed the commercial satellite
images to reporters as evidence to back up its warnings of a
Russian military buildup that could threaten Ukraine.
Russia denies massing forces near the border and accuses
NATO of fomenting concern to rally support for the alliance.
Many of the sites in the images appeared to be fields rather
than established military bases. The sites were located between
about 40 kilometres (25 miles) and 150 kilometres of the Ukraine
border, according to the images shown.
Russia's occupation and annexation of Ukraine's Crimea
region has caused the biggest crisis in East-West relations
since the Cold War and led to fears in Kiev that Moscow could
send forces into other parts of Ukraine.
"They have all the capabilities: air, special forces,
artillery. They have everything," Brigadier Deakin said.
The satellite pictures exhibited by NATO showed long lines
of tanks, armoured vehicles, artillery and aircraft parked and
ready for action at a series of makeshift staging posts.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has accused Russian
agents and special forces of stirring up separatist unrest and
said Moscow could be trying to prepare for military action.
Russia denies the accusations and has dismissed concerns
over a troop buildup.
In a buildup that began in early March, the satellite images
showed that Russia has amassed not only infantry and artillery
but electronic warfare units, helicopters and aircraft, said
another NATO officer, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The pictures were taken between March 22 and April 2. NATO's
assessment is that troop numbers have remained at about the same
level since then.
(Reporting by Adrian Croft; editing by Ralph Boulton)