The UK and US have accused Russia of boosting its forces on the Ukrainian border by as many as 7,000 troops – despite claims it was withdrawing some soldiers.
The anonymous US Senior official said Russia has increased its troop presence along the Ukrainian border by as many as 7,000 troops, with many of them arriving as recently as Wednesday.
The official blasted Russia’s claim, at the beginning of this week, it was withdrawing troops from the border with Ukraine which he says was false.
“They received a lot of attention for that claim, both here and around the world. But we now know it was false,” the official said.
No details or evidence were given of how the US knew this to be the case but the 7,000 figure was today backed by UK Armed Forces minister James Heappey.
Heappey said Britain has not “necessarily” been able to “verify” the 7,000 figure, but warned imagery overnight showed a new bridge and a large field hospital and he was “very worried”.
He told BBC “Troop movements towards the border continue”, adding; “For all the talk about de-escalation in Moscow, I’m afraid what we’re seeing in the opposite and we’re very worried about it.”
“All of the conditions are set, and from the moment President Putin takes a decision, it is literally just a matter of minutes before military effect could be felt in Ukrainian cities.” he said.
The UK’s Lieutenant General Sir Jim Hockenhull, the Chief of Defence Intelligence, added: “Contrary to their claims, Russia continues to build up military capabilities near Ukraine.
“This includes sightings of additional armoured vehicles, helicopters and a field hospital moving towards Ukraine’s borders. Russia has the military mass in place to conduct an invasion of Ukraine.”
Moscow denies it has any plans to invade, and Russia’s defence ministry said yesterday its forces were pulling back after exercises near Ukraine. It published video that it said showed forces leaving the Crimean peninsula.
UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said it was essential the UK and its allies not be “lulled into a false sense of security”, adding: “In fact the Russian military build-up shows no signs of slowing.
“We must have no illusions that Russia could drag this out much longer in a brazen ploy to spend weeks more – if not months – subverting Ukraine and challenging Western unity. This is a test of our mettle.”
On Tuesday, US President Joe Biden said the United States estimated that 150,000 Russian troops had encircled Ukraine, an increase from previous estimates of about 100,000.