US intelligence estimates that Russia is stepping up preparations for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and that it already has 70% of the force needed for such an operation, according to US officials.
Moscow has already massed 110,000 soldiers on the borders of Ukraine, and could have sufficient capacity to launch an offensive in two weeks, according to these officials who have informed the elected members of the American Congress and the European partners of the United States in recent days.
They said that US Intelligence had not established whether Russian President Vladimir Putin had made the decision to go on the offensive or not, but that he wanted to give himself all possible options, from the partial invasion of the separatist enclave of Donbass to total invasion.
At the rate that the Russian military continues to strengthen around Ukraine, the master of the Kremlin should have sufficient forces for a large-scale invasion, or 150,000 men, in mid-February, they told American elected officials. and European allies.
If the Russian president chooses the most drastic option, he could encircle Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, and overthrow President Volodymyr Zelensky in 48 hours, according to these officials.
They warned that the conflict would have a considerable human cost with the risk of causing the death of 25,000 to 50,000 civilians, 5,000 to 25,000 Ukrainian soldiers and 3,000 to 10,000 Russian soldiers. It could also cause an influx of 1 to 5 million refugees, mainly to Poland.
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A first contingent of American soldiers arrived in Poland on Saturday, where American President Joe Biden decided to send reinforcements to defend the NATO countries “against any aggression”, in the midst of a diplomatic ballet aimed at convincing Moscow to withdraw its troops massed on the borders of Ukraine.
Russia denies any hint of invasion, saying it only wants to guarantee its security. Moscow also announced joint “military maneuvers” with Belarus, where it massed several battalions north of Kiev and in the Brest region, not far from the Polish border.
Yet, according to US intelligence findings, Russia continues to amass a sizable military base around Ukraine.
Two weeks ago, 60 army battalions were positioned in the north, east and south of Ukraine, including in Crimea annexed by Moscow in 2014. On Friday, there were 80 and 14 others are in transit from the rest of Russia, including Vladivostok in the Russian Far East.
Some 1,500 Russian special forces soldiers, the fearsome Spetsnaz, arrived a week ago in the border area of Ukraine, according to these officials.
In addition, a large Russian naval force is amassed in the Black Sea, including five amphibious vehicles that could be used for a landing on the southern coast of Ukraine, they pointed out.
They noted that six other such vehicles were observed leaving the Barents Sea, north of Russia, and skirting Britain before passing the Strait of Gibraltar, apparently heading for the Black Sea.
The Russian military has also positioned fighter jets, bombers, missiles and anti-aircraft batteries around Ukraine.
The United States said Thursday it had evidence that Moscow was preparing a fake Ukrainian attack video, which would be used as a pretext to invade Ukraine.