First, according to The Drive, six Russian navy amphibious landing ships have left their Baltic Sea port and are steaming into the Mediterranean Sea, ostensibly to take part in "naval exercises" suspiciously near Ukraine.
"However, with tensions surrounding Russia and Ukraine remaining high, there has been concern that the amphibious flotilla’s ultimate destination may be the Black Sea. From there they would be well-positioned to support a potential new Russian intervention in Ukraine," the outlet reported.
Russian Navy amphibious ships RFA PYOTR MORGUNOV, OLENEGORSKIY GORNYAK & GEORGIY POBEDONOSETS heading east through the Strait of Gibraltar a short while ago #shipsinpics #ships #shipping #shipspotting @air_intel pic.twitter.com/yRfK0i1gWl
— Daniel Ferro (@Gibdan1) January 27, 2022
The outlet went on to identify three of the vessels:
The three vessels from the Russian Navy’s Northern Fleet, the Project 775 Ropucha class amphibious warfare ships Olenegorskiy Gornyak and Georgiy Pobedonosets and the Project 11711 Ivan Gren class landing ship Pyotr Morgunov, were spotted entering the Mediterranean ... via the Strait of Gibraltar.
Russian fleet of at least three landing ships just entered the Med via the Strait of Gibraltar. Record shots of ships. @Osinttechnical @UKDefJournal @UKDefJournal @GDarkconrad @WarshipsIFR @NavyLookout pic.twitter.com/Qlz8qkCkRm
— David Parody ?? (@dparody) January 27, 2022
The Russian ships were shadowed by a patrol vessel belonging to the Spanish Navy, as well as a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon patrol aircraft, one of the sea service's most modern planes for surveillance and anti-submarine warfare.
Two days earlier, a trio of Ropucha class vessels from the Baltic Fleet, which preceded the flotilla from the Northern Fleet as it passed through the English Channel, entered the Med Sea along the same route, The Drive reported.
The Russian military had previously announced that these amphibious warfare vessels would be participating in exercises involving several other warships including some from Russia's Pacific Fleet. But as in the past, Moscow often masks offensive military actions with pre-announced 'maneuvers' or 'exercises,' as was the case prior to the Georgian invasion in August 2008.
Another Russian warship, the Vishnya class intelligence-gathering ship Vasiliy Tatishchev, has also entered the Mediterranean Sea, ostensibly to also take part in the 'exercises.'
Russian Navy Vishnya class AGI VASILIY TATISHCHEV heading east through the Strait of Gibraltar this evening #shipsinpics #ships #shipping #shipspotting #navy #naval #russiannavy @air_intel @YorukIsik @The_Lookout_N @seawaves_mag @WarshipCam @Capt_Navy pic.twitter.com/J6SPzHqrCS
— Daniel Ferro (@Gibdan1) January 20, 2022
"At the same time, with a focus on the build-up of Russian forces around Ukraine’s borders, there remains the concern that these naval maneuvers, as well as fo [sic] due to take place in Belarus, could be part of the Kremlin’s planning for a new campaign against Ukraine," The Drive reports.
"These fears have been reinforced not only by the sheer scale of the Russian military deployments in the border areas but also the appearance of certain offensive weapons systems, including Iskander short-range ballistic missiles and combat aircraft," it added.
Meanwhile, "Russia's military buildup near Ukraine has expanded to include supplies of blood along with other medical materials that would allow it to treat casualties, in yet another key indicator of Moscow's military readiness," Reuters reported on Saturday, a further indication that President Vladimir Putin is serious about invading his western neighbor.
Such medical supplies, especially blood, which is often in short supply and must be kept refrigerated, are crucial to any invasion, especially given that Ukraine is planning to resist.
U.S. officials have warned for days now that Russia is in a position to launch an attack on very short notice. As soon as Putin has all of his pieces in place, it appears likely that is what he will do.