Andriy Parubiy, the head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, claims that Russia has placed 80,000 solders, 270 tanks, 370 artillery systems and 140 combat aircraft near the Ukrainian border.
“Ukraine today is facing the threat of a full-scale invasion from various directions,” he said, according to The New York Times.
Ukraine’s acting president, Oleksandr V. Turchynov, stated earlier that he believed Russian forces massed near the border were “ready to intervene in Ukraine at anytime.”
Russia is holding military exercises Thursday near the border with Ukraine in its Southern Military District. Independent websites in Russia are also reportedly being blocked, which raises concerns that Putin will make a move.
The drills reportedly involve 8,500 artillery men and huge numbers of Grad, Hurricane, and Tornado multiple-rocket launchers. Howitzers, Nona self-propelled artillery. Rapier anti-tank guns are also being tested.
Here’s some analysis of journalist Michael Weiss in The Interpreter’s live blog:
“While the Russian government claims that these are training exercises, it’s also worth noting that those have to be pre-announced to neighbours under conventional arms agreements. They were not. In fact, the existence of this mobilization was denied by the Kremlin until today.
And, as we wrote earlier, the last time Russia conducted “drills,” they invaded Crimea. The buildup of troops in Crimea, on the eastern edge of Ukraine, and along the northern border, has the Ukrainian government extremely nervous that they are facing further invasion. History tells us they have reason to be nervous.”
It’s clear that Russia already controls Crimea. Now other states in the region are becoming increasingly concerned that Vladimir Putin will intervene elsewhere under the same pretext of protecting ethnic Russians who are under threat of “lawlessness.”
Aleksandr Golts, an author and military analyst, told The Times that the goal of the Russian movements “is very clear: not to permit Ukrainian troops from moving toward Crimea.”
And here’s the take of former NSA analyst and regional expert John Schindler:
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