Satellite images show potential Russian military buildup near Baltics

New satellite images show Russia is possibly upgrading its military installations in Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave right near the Baltic states, some 400 kilometres (250 miles) from the Estonian border.

The satellite images were exclusively obtained by the CNN and they show Russia appears to upgrade four of its military installations in the Kaliningrad region.

Earlier in 2018, aerial images came to light that suggested Russia had significantly modernised a nuclear weapons storage bunker in Kaliningrad. Now, satellite imagery and analysis from ImageSat International, a commercial satellite firm, appear to confirm that a major modernisation is underway in at least four locations throughout the region, the CNN reported.

Upgrades to a nuclear weapons base

The upgrades include fresh work at what analysts have identified as the Kaliningrad nuclear weapons storage site, according to the news network. Images captured between 19 July and 1 October indicate work on an exposed bunker under renovation that appears to conceal activity underneath.

According to the CNN, another set of images shows 40 new bunkers under construction at a military storage area near Primorsk, Russia’s second-largest port on the Baltic Sea, also located in Kaliningrad oblast.

Some images also show upgrades in Chernyakhovsk, a Russian base that is home to the 152nd Missile Brigade of the Russian military. In February 2018, the base received nuclear-capable Iskander missiles, and, according to the CNN, a US defence official called it the biggest move they had seen in terms of Russian militarisation in the Baltic region.

A strategic location

Kaliningrad oblast is a strategic Russian outpost on NATO’s doorstep – just southwest of Lithuania and northeast of Poland, and not far from Latvia and Estonia. It’s not connected to the rest of Russia, hence it’s called an enclave.

The area was formerly part of East Prussia, part of the Kingdom of Prussia and the Weimar Republic, ie Germany. After the Second World War, the territory was annexed by the Soviet Union, ethnically cleansed of the German-speaking population and populated with citizens from the Soviet Union. Due to its strategic location, it’s home to many Russian military installations and bases.


Cover: Russian Iskander missiles on the 9P78-1 Transporter erector launcher. Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin, published under the CC BY-SA 4.0 licence.

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