According to its latest ongoing security assessment – shared with CNN by Ukrainian security sources – the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said that “combat equipment and other military equipment, such as tanks, armed vehicles and ‘Iskander’ missiles, remain close to the Ukrainian border “. as a result of numerous Russian military exercises.
Russia “redeploys and regularly accumulates its military units to maintain tension in the region”, according to the assessment, which allows it “to quickly create strike forces and lays the foundations for rapid reinforcement”.
However, Russian President Vladimir Putin has called the suggestion that Russia invades Ukraine “provocative”.
“Russia pursues a peaceful foreign policy. But it has the right to ensure its security,” he said Wednesday at a televised press conference, underlining the Kremlin’s concern that the Ukraine will one day join NATO.
In a virtual meeting on Tuesday that has become at times tense, US President Joe Biden warned Putin against invading Ukraine, and Washington is preparing a series of tough economic sanctions in case Russian forces attack.
Biden ended the conversation without further clarification as to whether Putin had decided to launch an invasion, U.S. officials said afterwards.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said on Monday that the reinforcement of Russian troops was an attempt to sow fear and unrest in Ukraine and prevent Kiev from moving closer to NATO and EU membership European.
“This gathering of their troops along our border, it is a main objective for them to make a process of destabilization inside our country, to stop us on our way. But we are entering the ally of the ‘NATO, we are going to the EU,’ Reznikov told CNN.
According to the latest Ukrainian assessment, Russia is also stepping up operations from the neighboring country of Belarus, which borders Ukraine to the north. The report states that some units of the Russian army remain near the Russian border with Belarus “at a distance of approximately 260 km (160 miles) from the state border of Ukraine”.
Russia has also stepped up its intelligence gathering on Ukraine, the report adds, the number of reconnaissance aircraft flights along the Ukrainian border, over the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, tripling since the same period last year.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is expected to meet with Biden on Thursday.
Additional reporting by Katharina Krebs of CNN in Kiev.