Russia's incursion into Crimea, and their threat to enter other parts of Ukraine to protect ethnic Russians, has put Ukraine's military on high alert. But if the new Ukrainian government decides to resist, it is unclear how much the armed forces will be weakened by pro-Russian defectors. A quick look at Ukraine's current military dispositions and capabilities.
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Although most of Ukraine's estimated 200 combat aircraft are far from the Russian border, the Belbek air base in Crimea, which holds dozens of their best fighter aircraft, is now occupied by the Russians. The majority of Ukraine's airlift capability for airborne troops at Melitopol and Zaporizhzhya are within easily striking distance of Russia as are the aviation training grounds near Kharkiv.

Ukraine's army consists of about 70,000 active ground forces with at least 735 tanks, 2,155 combat armored vehicles, 72 helicopters and 892 artillery systems. Perhaps 12,000 of these troops are trained in airborne and airmobile operations, but whether their transportation aircraft can make it off the ground remains to be seen.

Most of Ukraine's port and naval facilities are based in Sevastopol and already under Russian control, bottled up by the Russian Black Sea Fleet. The remainder are based out of the Odessa region. Should Putin decide to seize Odessa and the mouth of the Dnieper River, Ukraine would be left without a navy, and the country would lose access to the outside world by sea.

Once a military powerhouse as part of the U.S.S.R, the strength of Ukraine's armed forces have since diminished from two decades of underfunding.

Air force

  • Symbol equals at least one squadron

  • Combat

  • Helicopter

  • Transportation/training


  • Symbol equals one brigade of about 4,500 personnel

  • Armor

  • Mechanized

  • Infantry


  • Naval base, repair yard or major port

Percentage of population that identified Russian as their native language (2001 census)

  • 10%

  • 20%

  • 30%

  • 50%

Russia has seized control of the Crimean peninsula, where armed forces wearing unidentified uniforms have surrounded Ukrainian military facilities and air bases. Key airports and naval headquarters have been blocked. Although Kremlin has said the troops are needed to protect civilians in the region, many of whom are ethnically Russian, Russian troops essentially outnumber Ukrainian forces in Crimea. Read related story.

Other Ukrainian military facilities that have been surrounded or taken over.


Blockade continues

Russian naval vessels cruising Sevastopol Harbor continue to block in three Ukrainian ships. The Russian Black Sea Fleet is based in the same port.


Ukrainian airfield closed

Russian troops have occupied Belbek Airbase. About 200 unarmed Ukrainian airmen tried to enter the base on Tuesday, but were turned away after warning shots were fired by pro-Russia militia. On Wednesday, Ukrainian commander Col. Yuli Mamchur gained permission to send someone onto the airfield to inspect planes. The Russians offered to provide housing for about 350 people who work on the base and lack adequate housing.


Crossing seized

Russian troops reportedly seized the Ukrainian ferry at Kerch Monday. Russian navy ships blocked off both ends of the Kerch Strait Tuesday and armored vehicles were seen gathering on the Russian side.

SOURCES: Airbus Defense and Space, DigitalGlobe via Google Earth, TerraMetrics and CNES/Astrium via Google Earth, Ukraine White Book, International Institute for Strategic Studies.
GRAPHIC: The Washington Post. Updated March 6, 2014.