Russia has up to 120,000 troops on Ukraine border, more coming

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Russia has up to 120,000 troops on Ukraine border, more coming

Russia has deployed dozens of combat-ready, highly mobile military formations comprising up to 120,000 troops along the border with Ukraine — and more could be on the way, reports suggested Wednesday.

Even as Russia denies that it is preparing an attack on its western neighbor, Moscow has gathered 60 so-called battalion tactical groups, each containing as many as 1,000 soldiers along with tanks, armored vehicles and mobile missile systems.

According to Tass, the official Russian news agency, there are about 170 such rapid-response tactical outfits in the Russian army. Aviation groups, special operation forces and other units can be attached to them.

Meanwhile, NBC News foreign correspondent Richard Engel, citing a “Western intelligence official,” tweeted Wednesday that between 112,000 and 120,000 Russian forces are in the border region and quoted the official as saying there “could be a lot more” en route.

The reporter added that intelligence also indicated the Russian military had brought medical teams and other logistical support for a potential invasion to the border.

The Admiral Essen frigate leaves to join a naval exercise of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.
The Admiral Essen frigate leaves to join a naval exercise of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.
Russian Defence Ministry/TASS
pallets of ammunition, weapons and other equipment while employees unload a plane with a new US security assistance provided to Ukraine at Kyiv's airport Boryspil.
The US has stepped up security assistance to Ukraine amid fears of a Russian invasion.
SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images

In a subsequent tweet that also cited a Western intelligence official, Engel warned that Russia was expected to step up cyber attacks against Ukraine, targeting TV, internet, state command and control installations and the power grid. 

Ukraine’s foreign ministry was struck Wednesday by unidentified hackers who took down a promotional website.

It was later restored. 

That followed a cyber attack earlier this month on the computer systems of about 70 Ukrainian government agencies and information companies that splashed the warning “Be afraid and expect the worst” on their websites.  

Amid escalating tensions between Washington and Moscow, the US and some of its allies were considering sending additional troops into NATO countries in Eastern Europe, CNN reported. 

Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary are weighing accepting the deployments, which would number about 1,000 troops each and would be similar to the battle groups already stationed in the Baltic states and Poland, the report said. 

But not all 30 NATO members are on board.

Employees unload a plane with a new US security assistance provided to Ukraine, at Kyiv's airport Boryspil on January 25, 2022.
Employees unload a plane with new US security assistance provided to Ukraine, at Kiev’s airport Boryspil on January 25, 2022.
SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images

The US is in talks to send the additional troops on a bilateral basis with the UK, creating a “coalition of the willing,” an official told CNN.

US forces could operate unilaterally or under existing NATO command structures, the report said. 

The Pentagon on Monday put 8,500 US troops on “heightened alert” for potential deployment to Eastern Europe. 

Spokesman John Kirby said no decision had yet been made about deploying the military personnel as part of the 40,000-strong NATO Response Force in the region. 

“We still don’t believe Mr. Putin has made a final decision whether to conduct another incursion/invasion into Ukraine,” Kirby said. “We still think there’s time and space here for diplomacy and dialogue to work. … We still think there’s room and time for diplomacy, and the department wants to make sure that we help provide that … time and space for the diplomats.”

Along with the troops on the Ukraine border, Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent forces into Belarus, which borders Ukraine to the north, as part of military exercises planned for next month. 

The Admiral Essen frigate leaves to join a naval exercise of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.
Moscow has gathered 60 so-called battalion tactical groups.
Russian Defence Ministry/TASS

Kirby said Monday that Moscow shows no sign of de-escalating the situation.

“They continue to add battalion tactical groups to their western border, to the border with Ukraine,” he said. “And in Belarus as well, the numbers there are increasing. So they have not only shown no signs of de-escalating, but they are in fact adding more force capability.”

With Post wires

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