Ukraine: Russia’s military deployment near border ‘almost completed’

Russia’s military deployment near the Ukrainian border is “almost completed,” according to a Ukrainian Defense Ministry intelligence assessment shared with CNN.

“The full strength of RF AF [Russian Federation’s Armed Forces] land group at the Ukrainian direction — [is] over 106,000 personnel. Together with the sea and air component, the total number of personnel is over 127,000 servicemen,” according to the Ukrainian assessment, CNN reported.

Though Russia claims the country does not have any military personnel within eastern Ukraine, the assessment reportedly says 3,000 Russian military members are stationed in rebel territory. More than 35,000 rebels in eastern Ukraine are supported by the Russian government, the network noted.

The Ukrainian assessment said that the developments are “aimed at limiting the capabilities of the United States” in an effort to “ensure security on the European continent.” The assessment also alleged that Russia is “trying to split and weaken the European Union and NATO,” according to CNN.

The developments come amid escalating tensions between Ukraine and Russia over concerns that Russia is readying itself to invade the former Soviet republic. 

Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said Tuesday that drill exercises to “thwart and repel a foreign aggression” were being conducted by Russia and Belarus as Russian military personnel and equipment make their way into Belarus, according to The Associated Press. 

“There are many troubling things happening in Belarus right now and there can be no doubt about Belarus’s role as an increasingly destabilizing actor in the region,” a senior State Department official said on Tuesday.

According to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry intelligence assessment, “The territory of Belarus should be considered as a full-fledged theater of operations that Russia can use to expand aggression against Ukraine,” CNN reported.

One senior State Department official who spoke to CNN said they were monitoring Russian activities.

“Russian military plans to begin activities several weeks before a military invasion are something we’ve been watching closely and our assessment has been that could happen anytime between mid-January and mid-February,” the senior State Department official told the outlet.

In a statement to The Hill, a State Department spokesperson stressed that diplomacy “is the best path forward” and advised Russia against inflaming tensions.

“Any Russian attempts to ratchet up pressure only strengthens our resolve. We continue to monitor Russian military activities near Ukraine’s border and would reiterate that genuine progress can only take place in an environment of de-escalation and diplomacy is the best path forward,” the State Department spokesperson said. “That requires Russia to stay at the table and take concrete steps to reduce tensions – not inflame them.”

The Hill has reached out to Ukraine’s Defense Ministry and the Russian Embassy in Washington for comment. 

— Updated at 5:56 p.m.

Tags Russia State Department Ukraine

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