Russia may have as many as 190,000 soldiers stationed in and around Ukraine’s borders, according to Washington’s envoy to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), despite warnings from the West that Moscow may be staging a “pretext” to attack its neighbour.
Michael Carpenter told an OSCE meeting on Friday that the US had revised its estimate of the number of servicemen massed by Moscow from three weeks ago, when he said the number of soldiers deployed to border areas and in the Moscow-annexed Crimean Peninsula stood at 100,000, to between 169,000 and 190,000.
His comments came as Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed rebels in the country’s conflict-torn east exchanged new charges of shelling and other ceasefire violations, and Moscow announced that Russian President Vladimir Putin would participate in significant nuclear drills on Saturday.
Macron expresses concern about the situation in eastern Ukraine.
The situation in eastern Ukraine has been termed as “extremely alarming” by French President Emmanuel Macron.
At a European Union summit, Macron informed reporters that he had heard rumours of multiple casualties in the region.
‘Putin warns that the situation is ‘deteriorating.’
Putin has warned that the situation in eastern Ukraine is “deteriorating” and has urged Ukraine’s leadership to enter talks with separatists backed by Moscow who control large parts of the region.
Putin said at a news conference in Moscow with his Belarusian colleague Alexander Lukashenko that Russia was willing to negotiate on its security demands with NATO.
He said, however, that the US-led military alliance and Washington were not in the mood to discuss Moscow’s main concerns, namely that Ukraine should never be allowed to join NATO and that the alliance should suspend all military action in Eastern Europe.
A separatist commander in Ukraine has announced the evacuation of citizens to Russia.
As worries of a large-scale confrontation mount, the separatist commander of eastern Ukraine’s self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) has stated that rebel authorities will begin evacuating citizens to Russia.
“A mass centralised migration of the population to the Russian Federation has been planned starting today.” Denis Pushilin claimed in a video message on the Telegram messaging service that “women, children, and the elderly will be evacuated first.”
Putin is preparing for an invasion by ‘setting the groundwork.’ Putin is showing “all signals” that he is poised to strike Ukraine, according to Heather Conley, head of the German Marshall Fund of the United States think-tank.
“He’s building the basis for the justification,” she said, referring to shelling along the Donbas line of contact.
“He’s waiting for the Ukrainian government to defend itself, and we believe he’ll use it as an excuse to invade.”