Whether they are testing the waters of a new American presidency, a bit of saber rattling or actually preparing for a full scale invasion, Russia and therefore Vladimir Putin’s intentions are far from clear. However, since mid-March, Ukraine and other Western governments have been pointing to the fact that there has been a steady build up of troops and military hardware not just in Russian-annexed Crimea but also along the eastern Ukraine conflict zone.
Although the Kremlin remains largely tight lipped about recent developments, with Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying that moving troops across Russian territory was an “internal affair”, they have made some accusations suggesting that Ukraine has been staging “provocations”. However, it is hard to determine exactly who Russia’s displeasure is aimed at because on April 13, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu also accused NATO of “threatening” actions.
In response to those perceived threats, the Kremlin said it was sending two armies and three formations of airborne troops to its western borders, to ‘conduct exercises’ but the numbers and exact locations remain undetermined. Ukrainian intelligence sources suggest the extra forces that have been deployed amount to 16 battalion tactical groups (around 14,000 soldiers), bringing the total troop deployment by Russia to about 40,000 amassed on the eastern border with a further 40,000 within Crimea.