Ukraine-Russia crisis: As tensions rise on the border, here’s what you need to

The Kremlin denies it is planning to attack and argues that NATO support for Ukraine — including increased weapons supplies and military training — constitutes a growing threat on Russia’s western flank.

The picture is complicated — but here’s a breakdown of what we know.

The United States and NATO have described the movements and concentrations of troops in and around Ukraine as “unusual.”

As many as 100,000 Russian troops have remained amassed at the Ukrainian border, despite warnings from US President Joe Biden and European leaders of serious consequences should Putin move ahead with an invasion. And US intelligence findings in December estimated that Russia could begin a military offensive in Ukraine “as soon as early 2022.”
Speaking alongside his Ukrainian counterpart in Kyiv on January 19, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Russia had “ratcheted up its threats and amassed nearly 100,000 forces on Ukraine’s border, which it could double on relatively short order.”

In late 2021, satellite photos revealed Russian hardware — including self-propelled guns, battle tanks and infantry fighting vehicles — on the move at a training ground roughly 186 miles (300 km) from the border.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s latest intelligence assessment says Russia has now deployed more than 127,000 troops near Ukraine, including some 21,000 air and sea personnel, transferred more Iskander operational-tactical missiles to the border, and increased its intelligence activity against the country.

The assessment came after three rounds of diplomatic talks between Russia and the West aimed at de-escalating the crisis failed to produce a resolution.

US officials have said a Russian invasion of Ukraine could happen at any point in the next month or two.

Putin and Biden are caught in a high-stakes gamble over Ukraine

Many of Russia’s military bases are to the west of the vast country — the direction from which history suggests any threats are most likely to come. Russia’s Defense Ministry has said it is conducting “regular” winter military drills in its southern region, parts of which border Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions bordering Russia, an area known as Donbas, have been under the control of Russian-backed separatists since 2014. Russian forces are also present in the area, referred to by Ukraine as “temporarily occupied territories,” although Russia denies it.

The front lines of the conflict have barely moved in five years, but there are frequent small-scale clashes and sniper attacks. Russia was angered when Ukrainian forces deployed a Turkish-made combat drone for the first time in October to strike a position held by the pro-Russian separatists.

Russia also has forces numbering in the tens of thousands at its massive naval base in Crimea, the Ukrainian territory it annexed in 2014. The Crimean peninsula, which lies to the south of the rest of Ukraine, is now connected by a road bridge to mainland Russia.

Russian tanks take part in a military drills at Molkino training ground in the Krasnodar region, Russia, on December 14, 2021.

What’s the history of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia?

Tensions between Ukraine and Russia, both former Soviet states, escalated in late 2013 over a landmark political and trade deal with the European Union. After the pro-Russian then-President, Viktor Yanukovych, suspended the talks — reportedly under pressure from Moscow — weeks of protests in Kyiv erupted into violence.
Then, in March 2014, Russia annexed Crimea, an autonomous peninsula in southern Ukraine with strong Russian loyalties, on the pretext that it was defending its interests and those of Russian-speaking citizens. First, thousands of Russian-speaking troops, dubbed “little green men” and later acknowledged by Moscow to be Russian soldiers, poured into the Crimean peninsula. Within days, Russia completed its annexation in a referendum that was slammed by Ukraine and most of the world as illegitimate.
Russian soldiers patrol the area surrounding the Ukrainian military unit in Perevalnoye, outside Simferopol, Crimea, on March 20, 2014.

Shortly afterwards, pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions declared their independence from Kyiv, prompting months of heavy fighting. Despite Kyiv and Moscow signing a peace deal in Minsk in 2015, brokered by France and Germany, there have been repeated ceasefire violations.

According to UN figures, there have been more than 3,000 conflict-related civilian deaths in eastern Ukraine since March 2014.
The European Union and US have imposed a series of measures in response to Russia’s actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, including economic sanctions targeting individuals, entities and specific sectors of the Russian economy.

The Kremlin accuses Ukraine of stirring up tensions in the country’s east and of violating the Minsk ceasefire agreement.

Ukrainian soldiers prepare to support the withdrawal of troops on February 19, 2015 in Artemivsk, Ukraine.

What’s Russia’s view?

The Kremlin has repeatedly denied that Russia plans on invading Ukraine, insisting Russia does not pose a threat to anyone and that the country moving troops across its own territory should not be cause for alarm.

Moscow sees the growing support for Ukraine from NATO — in terms of weaponry, training and personnel — as a threat to its own security. It has also accused Ukraine of…

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