Russian forces massing on the border with Ukraine have prompted the U.S. European Command to raise its watch level to its highest point of “potential imminent crisis”, according to a New York Times report Tuesday night. On Wednesday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley spoke to senior Russian Gen. Valery Gerasimov about the buildup, according to Russia.
Four Ukrainian soldiers were killed last week in an extended battle in the contested Donetsk Region against Russia-backed separatists. Russian forces that were thought to have gathered for training exercises near the border have stayed and grown in numbers, prompting concerns.
Under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Russia under Vladimir Putin took territory in the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Ukraine, respectively. When Donald Trump was president, Russia took no territory. Now with Joe Biden in the White House, Russia appears to be testing his mettle.
The war in eastern Ukraine, which has been on a low simmer for months, drawing little international attention, has escalated sharply in recent days, according to statements on Tuesday from the Ukrainian and Russian governments.
In the deadliest engagement so far this year, four Ukrainian soldiers were killed and another seriously wounded in a battle against Russian-backed separatists in the Donetsk Region of eastern Ukraine, the country’s military said.
The soldiers’ deaths, along with a buildup of Russian forces on the border, has seized the attention of senior American officials in Europe and Washington. In the past week, the U.S. military’s European Command raised its watch level from possible crisis to potential imminent crisis — the highest level — in response to the deployment of the additional Russian troops.
…Russia’s moves have divided Washington.
Some officials believe Russia is mostly engaging in saber rattling and is not eager to renew its offensive. Others are more worried, believing that Mr. Putin’s intentions are not clear and that an operation meant to test a new president could quickly escalate into something more ominous.
This week, Gen. Tod D. Wolters, the head of U.S. European Command, raised the American military’s watch level for the second time in several days after Russian troops failed to leave Ukraine’s border region. American strategists had expected the troops to depart the area, about 30 miles from Ukraine’s border, after the conclusion of a military exercise on March 23.
American estimates of how many additional Russian troops had been sent to the border have varied. One official said there were roughly 4,000.
Fox News reporter Lucas Tomlinson on the general-to-general phone call, “U.S. military’s top officer Gen. Mark Milley spoke by phone with Russia’s top officer Gen. Valery Gerasimov following buildup of Russian forces on Ukraine’s border: Russian defense ministry”
U.S. military's top officer Gen. Mark Milley spoke by phone with Russia's top officer Gen. Valery Gerasimov following buildup of Russian forces on Ukraine's border: Russian defense ministry
— Lucas Tomlinson (@LucasFoxNews) March 31, 2021
Also on Tuesday, Russia warned about a possible “civil war” in Ukraine.
Russia is making recent military moves and disinfo on Ukraine has increased significantly over the past few weeks. Meanwhile Putin's crony press secretary Peskov expresses concerns over a threat of war. Unbelievable gaslighting! Hope the West will actually respond this time pic.twitter.com/aEDDefROFO
— Olga Lautman 🇺🇦 (@OlgaNYC1211) March 31, 2021
Video reportedly filmed in Russian-occupied Crimea taken Tuesday:
Крым, 30 марта pic.twitter.com/yaMoN7leio
— IgorGirkin (@GirkinGirkin) March 30, 2021
The poster’s Twitter page has several videos reportedly showing Russian military vehicles being transported to occupied Crimea.
Translation from Ukraine Pravda on the buildup published Tuesday, Featured Image from the article, (excerpt):
Recently, under the guise of preparing for future military exercises “West 2021”, Russia is withdrawing (sic) troops to the border with Ukraine – in the Bryansk and Voronezh regions of the Russian Federation and to the occupied Crimea.
Source : Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Ruslan Khomchak during a speech in the Verkhovna Rada on Tuesday
Details : According to him, as of March 30, there are 28 battalion tactical groups of the enemy along the Russian-Ukrainian border and in the occupied territories of Donbass and Crimea.
The Ukrainian command expects that Russia will soon assemble “up to 25 more battalion tactical groups near the Ukrainian border and in Crimea, which, together with the available deployed forces and means near the state border of Ukraine, poses a threat to the state ‘s military security .”
Khomchak also said that since the occupation of Crimea in 2014, Russia has increased its military presence on the peninsula to 32.7 thousand troops.
In particular, in mid-March 2021 at the Crimean range “Opuk” the Russian army practiced the landing of air and naval landings with the participation of two battalions and artillery. After the exercises, the military units remained in the area of the test site. 5 more battalions joined them.