Russia has sent tens of thousands of soldiers to recently built installations near Ukraine as part of a new military strategy to offset threats from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Russia has accused Ukraine of killing two of its men in Crimea. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko denied the accusations and stated they do not rule out Russia’s intentions of a full-scale invasion. Tensions between the two nations boiled last week when Russia’s President Vladimir Putin accused Ukraine’s military forces of the murder of two Russian servicemen in Crimea.

Vladimir Putin.
Russia began constructing military bases near Ukraine in 2015. Image credit: Getty Images/ Mikhail Metzel.

Crimea was annexed by the Russian Federation in 2014. Putin stated that Russia would discuss anti-terrorism scenarios to face the dangers in Crimea borders after the loss of their two men.

The Ukrainian government denied the charges and said Russia was only creating a pretext to invade Ukraine. On Thursday Poroshenko stated that Russia’s forces gathering near Ukraine’s borders elevated the chance of an escalation. Ukraine is preparing for a possible Russian invasion.

The head of Defense Express military research center in Kiev said by phone that this escalation could be aiming to end current formats of talks to shift to direct negotiations with the United States, Bloomberg reported. All with the purpose of dividing points of interests.

The recent growth of Russian military near the border is a significant shift for the Kremlin’s behavior towards the frontier. For years the Russian-Ukrainian border had not been more than an administrative boundary and Russia did not have soldiers near it.

After the Kiev revolution and the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Russia sent military forces nearby the 1,200-mile border with Ukraine, bringing some speculations about the country’s intentions.

The Wall Street Journal said Russia is building new army installations along the frontier to receive more troops later this year. It is also creating new units and redeploying others from further east.

According to Russian military officials, two divisions would be created in the Western District and one in the Southern Military District. Each position would have 10 thousand soldiers.

Russia’s military has installed a new regional headquarter in Voronezh, with a short distance from Ukraine. Voronezh is about 1 thousand miles from the border.

New bases and barracks are being constructed in nearby towns from the line that divides Russia and Ukraine territories. The massive move of Russian troops should not be a surprise, some of the military constructions started in 2015.

Russia’s armed men are not only gathering near Ukraine, they are also training and practicing

Russia is not only gathering its forces near the country, it is also training them. The Wall Street Journal reported that Russia has completed more than 300 training exercises and war games in the Western Military District since last winter.

The major military exercise is yet to come. Every year Russia’s military forces carry a great combat exercise. This year it will be called Kavkaz 2016, and it will take place near the Ukrainian border in September. During the exercises, new tactics to defend Crimea will be implemented.

Putin, Crimea
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks to Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvédev at the Sevastopol International Airport near Crimea. Image credit: EFE/ SPUTNIK POOL.

According to a U.S. military official, Russia’s units along the border are expected to practice amphibious landings and air defense exercises to protect Crimea. U.S. officials also said that Russia would be rotating its troops and equipment, including long convoys, in and out of the border region.

The United States will be watching Russia’s moves in the area closely. Military analysts think the deployment could be an effort to have a permanent military presence in Ukraine and help pro-Russia separatist fighters.

Russia has intervened in Ukraine undercovered military operations to maintain their influence in the West of the border. Anton Lavrov, a defense analyst at CAST, said Russia’s intentions are to use force if the moment calls for it.

U.S. military officials disagree. They have been watching Russia’s movements in the border for two years since the Kremlin issued an order to take Crimea from Ukraine.

According to their analysis, there is not an immediate threat. A senior military official believes that any change in Russian troops in the border is part of a broader plan.

Putin goes to Crimea after Ukraine accused Russia of trying to invade them

Ukraine thinks that after what happened in Crimea, Russia’s movements in the border could mean a full-scale invasion by the Kremlin. President Putin visited Crimea on Friday to meet his Security Council and pro-Russian troops.

Putin’s visit to Crimea worsens the escalation, being the worst one since the 2015 truce to stop Moscow-backed troops and Ukrainian forces.

The continued confrontations between pro-Russian groups and Ukrainian military men have been an obstacle for the country to focus on its domestic policies that need to restart a stalled $17.5 billion Western-led economic bailout, Bloomberg reported.

The strong Russian presence near Ukraine and the growing tensions come days before Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union and Russia’s parliamentary elections.

Russia, Crimea
Image credit: The Wall Street Journal.

Source: The Wall Street Journal