Russian troop increase at Ukraine border raises
According to a NATO official, Russia now has about 20,000 troops stationed “in an area along the entire border with eastern Ukraine.” The buildup nearly doubled the troop deployment in the last week by adding 8,000 more forces to 12,000 already there, the official said.
It comes a week after the United States and the European Union increased economic sanctions on Russia for supporting pro-Russian separatists fighting Ukraine government forces in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, along the border with Russia.
In addition, Russia’s Defense Ministry is staging a week of military exercises involving air troops and anti-missile defense forces. The exercises are taking place in Russia’s southern Astrakhan region, roughly 500 miles from the border with Ukraine.
Similar military exercises in the region preceded Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March, which escalated the Ukraine conflict following the ouster of pro-Moscow Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych a month earlier.
Donetsk braces for offensive
Meanwhile, Ukraine government security officials said Monday they were preparing for a “massive assault” on Donetsk city, state media reported. Inside the city, a rebel stronghold for months, shelling has already pushed some residents underground into cellars and half-built basements. Read More.