Russia accused the West of beefing up its forces at its borders as well as those of Belarus in remarks that appeared to be in line with recent US warnings about Moscow’s aggressive stance towards Ukraine.
The Kremlin, along with Russia’s intelligence, security and diplomatic services, have all gone on the offensive in the past 48 hours after Vladimir Putin publicly called on his diplomats that tensions with the West should be continued as a form of aggressive deterrence.
US and Ukrainian officials said Russia had amassed nearly 100,000 troops in border areas near Ukraine and warned it was looking for a pretext to justify major intervention in the country.
In a public statement on Monday, Russia’s foreign intelligence service said the situation was similar to that in Georgia in 2008, where Russia waged a short war against Mikheil Saakashvili’s government.
“The provocative policies of the United States and the European Union, which have deliberately reinforced Kiev’s sense of permissiveness and impunity, are of great concern,” the agency wrote in the statement.
Also on Monday, the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council accused NATO members of increasing military activities in the Black Sea, Eastern Europe and the Arctic regions. Alexander Grebenkin, deputy secretary of the agency, said the likelihood of a border incident “is not decreasing”.
A spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry complained about the recent joint US-Estonian airborne military exercise, while a spokeswoman for the Kremlin pointed to the US weapons being provided to Kiev.
Russia has denied its intention to launch an attack. But Putin admitted that rising tensions in Eastern Europe serve Russia’s interests.
“Relative tensions have developed there,” Putin said when speaking to Russian diplomats last week. “First, they need to stay in this kind of state as long as possible, that they don’t even think about causing a conflict that we don’t want to see on our western borders, and we don’t need to. any conflict.
U.S. officials said they were unsure whether Putin was planning to launch a larger invasion of Ukraine, but that the country had methodically moved the elements needed for an offensive operation to Russia’s western borders since a massive build-up. in April.
Russia has sent men, money and weapons to fight in Ukraine since 2014, annexing the Crimean peninsula and starting a war in the Donbass region that has left more than 14,000 dead.
In an interview with the Military Times, the head of the Ukrainian defense intelligence agency said Russia had amassed more than 92,000 troops. around the borders of Ukraine and was preparing for an attack in late January or early February.
A slide released by the outlet showed that Russia has 40 battalion tactical groups, or BTGs, stationed near the border with Ukraine. That number was lower than an earlier build-up in April this year, when Russia had around 53 BTGs, made up of 105,000 troops, in the border region.