KYIV, Ukraine – Since late autumn, the number of troops Russia has deployed to its borders near Ukraine has been increasing. In the first week of January, the United States estimated that they numbered about 100,000. That number rose to 130,000, and then, on Tuesday, President Biden raised the number to 150,000 — with brigades usually stationed as far away as Siberia joining the force.
Now, even as Russia continues to issue announcements that it is starting to withdraw, the Pentagon says another 7,000 troops have joined ranks near Ukraine and are ready to launch an attack at any moment.
On Wednesday, a senior US official, who declined to be identified, told reporters that as long as the deployment could be withdrawn, Moscow would add more fighters. Western allies have expressed similar rejection of Russia’s claims.
American officials directly accuse Russia of lyingsays there is new evidence it is mobilizing for war.
On Thursday, the Russian Defense Ministry made its most detailed announcement to date, announcing that Russian troops would withdraw to their permanent bases after conducting drills. Ministry spokesman General Igor Konashenkov said that logistics units of the western military district traveled more than 400 miles from the Kursk region, which borders Ukraine, and back to their base in the town of Dzerzhinsk, central Russia.
Several other groups of troops traveled more than 900 miles by rail with their equipment and redeployed to Chechnya and Dagestan, he said. General Konashenkov said that soldiers currently participating in drills in Belarus will also return to their bases after the exercises are over, General Konashenkov said in a statement.
Those guarantees do not assuage Western concerns. Reflecting the urgency of the moment, the 27 leaders of the European Union member states were scheduled to meet on Thursday in Brussels for an extraordinary summit to discuss the meeting. crisis.
Additionally, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III is meeting NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels to discuss the allies’ efforts to counter Russia. Mr. Stoltenberg, echoing other Western officials, said he also saw nothing to support Russia’s statement of capital withdrawal.
“They have enough troops to launch an all-out invasion,” Stoltenberg said on Thursday, repeating his assertion that an attack could be carried out with little warning.
With the West essentially accusing Moscow of lying, the outlines of any diplomatic solution to the crisis look once again indistinguishable.
And even if Russia decides not to send tanks across the border, the massive deployment – coupled with alleged cyberattacks and economic pressure – is harming Ukraine.
“It feels like we’re watching a slow-motion wreck happening in front of our eyes,” said Ben Hodges, former commander of the US military in Europe, wrote on Twitter. “Russia’s land and naval forces are being deployed like an armed force around Ukraine, strangling its economy and further threatening its sovereignty.”
Using the threat to Ukraine as a bargaining chip, Russian President Putin has made sweeping demands, including the withdrawal of NATO forces from Eastern European countries once dominated by the Soviet Union. old. The United States and its NATO allies say that will never happen.
Russia has shaped the crisis around its basic security. And it says that even the distant prospect of Ukraine joining NATO is an existential threat.
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has made it clear once again that NATO membership is key to his country’s long-term security. “It is not an ambition. It’s our lives,” he said, according to brief comments aired by the BBC.
But the crisis in Ukraine didn’t begin when Russia made those demands in December – and it was triggered by security concerns as well as geopolitical ones.
It was late November 2013 when Ukrainians took to the streets to protest peacefully after President Viktor F. Yanukovych at the time decided not to sign an agreement that would bind the country more closely to the European Union. Europe.
The demonstrations were brutally suppressed, and in the riots that followed, about 100 civilians – known as the “heavenly hundred” – were killed on February 20 and 21.
Soon after, Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and supported a separatist insurgency in the Eastern Donbas that continues to smolder to this day.
https://www.nytimes.com/live/2022/02/17/world/russia-ukraine-news The Russia-Ukraine Crisis: Live Updates – The New York Times