Russia appears to be concentrating military forces on its border with Ukraine, according to satellite images. The war between Kiev and Russian-backed separatists in the eastern region of the country has been static for years, with neither side making much progress since the fighting began in 2014. The Pentagon is closely watching the apparent military buildup and there is speculation about a potential escalation of the conflict.
Russia masses troops and tanks on border
The Ukrainian defense ministry claims that around 90,000 Russian troops are positioned near the border between the two countries.
The satellite images show that the Russians are transporting large numbers of tanks, self-propelled artillery, and infantry fighting vehicles to the area.
The Kremlin has responded to reports about the movements by stating simply that internal troop movements in Russia are no one else’s business and that there is no threat implied.
The Ukrainian government accuses Russia of intentionally trying to heighten tensions in the region and intimidate other nearby countries with a show of force.
Russia has appeared to threaten with troop buildups on the border like this before. The threat of intervention on behalf of the separatists has overshadowed the entire conflict.
The separatist region is ethnically and culturally Russian and Putin’s government has made it clear that it will respond forcefully to any major escalations from Ukrainian troops.
Threat of escalation
The latest military movements may have been triggered by the use of combat drones against separatists by the Ukrainian military, something which the Kremlin has described as an intentional provocation.
The war in eastern Ukraine has lacked intensity but it has never lacked in tension and the danger of open conflict between the Russian and Ukrainian militaries has been a constant threat.
Russia collaborates closely with the separatist groups and moves men and supplies across the border. A full scale invasion of Ukraine would be a major escalation.
If it looks likely that the separatists are going to be defeated or if Kiev shows too much aggression a Russian attack would become likely.
The Ukrainian government has no intention of giving up the lands claimed by Russian separatists and the separatists have no desire to live under a Ukrainian government.
The current buildup of military forces by Russia is likely only meant to threaten but it begs the question of what will be necessary to finally end this slow but persistent conflict.