Russia moves more troops to Ukraine’s borders, raises concerns in Europe, US

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1 November 2021, 00:01

The government officials quoted in the piece spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Videos on social media show Russian military trains and convoys moving large quantities of military hardware, including tanks and missiles, in southern and western Russia, according to the Washington Post.

The secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, Oleksiy Danilov, estimated that the number of Russian troops around the Ukrainian border at 80,000 to 90,000, excluding the tens of thousands stationed in Crimea.

The recent troop buildup has reignited the concerns that arose in April, when the largest military expansion since Russia’s invasion in 2014 sparked an international revolt. At that time, over 80,000 Russian soldiers were stationed within striking distance of Ukrainian positions.

It is unclear why Russia is bringing more troops near the Ukrainian border this time. In the past, the Kremlin expanded its presence in Donbas only to subsequently withdraw its forces, maintaining a climate of tension and fear in Ukraine.

U.S. and European officials began noticing the troop buildup after Russia concluded a joint military exercise with Belarus known as Zapad 2021 in mid-September.

After this exercise, satellite imagery showed Russian troops normally based in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, thousands of kilometers from Ukraine, joined Russian forces stationed near the Ukrainian border. Russia also left its military equipment and communication centers at training sites along the Ukrainian border, according to Danilov.

Over the course of 2021, “Russian tone and messaging on Ukraine has changed dramatically,” said Michael Kofman, director of the Russia Studies program at the Virginia-based nonprofit analysis group CNA.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been attempting to undermine Ukraine’s separate historical identity. In an article published on the Kremlin website on July 12, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that Russians and Ukrainians have always shared a single history.

As of today, the U.S. has not taken any active combat roles in Ukraine. American troops have only trained Ukrainian forces in western Ukraine, while the Ukrainian military has participated in joint exercises with the U.S and its NATO allies. The U.S. has also provided Ukraine with Javelin anti-tank missile launchers.

According to Kofman, throughout 2021 Russia ordered its forces to practice anti-drone and anti-Javelin maneuvers.

The Kremlin was outraged when the Ukrainian military delivered its first drone strike against Russian-backed forces in Donbas on Oct. 26, in retaliation for an artillery attack that had killed a Ukrainian serviceman and injured two.

Russia’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the use of Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drones “destabilized” the situation in Donbas and could further worsen Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Kyiv Post

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