New evidence of a huge military build-up within striking distance of Ukraine ahead of a possible invasion has emerged hours after US President Joe Biden said he believes Russia’s Vladimir Putin will invade.
Russian troops have been told they could be away from home for up to ‘nine months’ after being moved thousands of miles from the country’s east to the border region and warned to expect being involved in a conflict in Ukraine.
Satellite images dated January 19 show a battlegroup deployed at Voronezh base around 200 miles (330km) from the Ukraine border with rows of tank artillery and support equipment massed at Yelnya, 77 miles (125km) from Russia’s border with Belarus.
Other images show military equipment gathered at two bases, Klintsky and Klimovo, that sit only 18 miles (30km) from the Belarusian frontier and no more than 31 miles (50km) from Russia’s border with Ukraine.
And, in a new development, Vladimir Putin today announced huge new naval drills to take place this month and next in four seas involving 140 warships and tens of thousands of sailors.
The war games will take place in the Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic, and Mediterranean involving ‘more than 140 warships and support vessels, more than 60 aircraft, 1,000 pieces of military equipment, and about 10,000 servicemen’, the Russian defense ministry said.
The region has been on a knife-edge since the end of last year when Moscow moved as many as 100,000 troops, as well as tanks and missiles, close to the border, but tensions have ramped up in recent days after a surge in equipment and troop movements, among them military police, from the extreme east of the country.
Russia and Belarus have claimed the movement of troops and equipment is linked to hastily arranged joint military exercises between the two countries – but observers branded the explanation a smokescreen for preparations for an invasion of Ukraine which the West now expects to happen imminently.