- New satellite images show the Russian military’s buildup along the Ukrainian border and in Crimea.
- The increasing activity has stoked fears of a future invasion — plans that Russia has denied.
- President Joe Biden warned Putin earlier in December of economic sanctions if Russia invades.
New satellite images show the Russian military’s alarming buildup along the Ukrainian border and in Crimea.
Russia’s buildup of personnel and equipment, including tanks, artillery, and armored troop carriers, has stoked fears of a future invasion — plans that Russia has denied.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday refused to rule out an invasion of Ukraine, claiming that the US and its western allies have tried to break up Russia since 1918. Putin has repeatedly accused NATO and the US of not respecting his “red lines” in Ukraine, and wants assurances that the former Soviet republic will never become a member of the alliance. Ukraine maintains a strong partnership with NATO, and has sought to join the alliance for years.
NATO has rejected Putin’s demands, but the US and Russia are poised to hold talks in January.
Putin, a former KGB operative, has referred to Ukrainians and Russians as “one people” — implying the two countries should be unified. In 2014, Russia invaded and unilaterally annexed Crimea from Ukraine. Since then, Kremlin-backed rebels have been engaged in an ongoing war with Ukrainian troops in the eastern Donbass region that has killed more than 13,000 people.
The recent buildup of Russian troops along Ukraine’s border marks the second time this year that the Kremlin has sparked concerns of an impending invasion. Russia also amassed a huge force on the border with its next door neighbor in the spring.
Putin on Tuesday threatened to take “adequate military-technical response measures” in response to “unfriendly steps” from the West. Michael McFaul, former US ambassador to Russia, said Putin has been “acting crazy.”
The Russian president on Thursday accused the US, without evidence, of placing missiles at “Russia’s doorstep.”
Earlier this week, Russia’s defense minister baselessly claimed that US mercenaries were preparing to launch a chemical weapons attack from eastern Ukraine, an assertion the Pentagon promptly dismissed.
The US has provided Ukraine with weapons, including Javelin anti-tank missiles, and over $2.5 billion in security assistance since 2014. But NATO doesn’t have a permanent troop presence in Ukraine, and hasn’t deployed advanced missiles there.
President Joe Biden told Putin earlier in December that if Russia invaded Ukraine, there would be “economic consequences like none he’s ever seen or ever have been seen.” But Biden also said that the US had no obligation to deploy troops in response to a Russian invasion.
Satellite images by Maxar Technologies obtained by Insider from the past few months show increasing military activity at various strategic locations both in Russia and Crimea.