War in Eastern Europe seems imminent as Russian troops mass on Ukraine’s border.
100,000 Russian troops
“I hope the whole world can now clearly see who really wants peace and who is concentrating nearly 100,000 soldiers at our border,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a speech on Wednesday carried on his website.
The US Defense Department confirmed that satellite imagery showed an estimated 90,000 Russian troops accompanied by masses of Russian hardware including self-propelled guns, battle tanks and infantry fighting vehicles at a training ground roughly 186 miles from the border.
On Tuesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters: “The movement of our military equipment or army units across the territory of the Russian Federation is exclusively our business.
“Russia has never threatened anyone, is not threatening, and does not pose a danger to anyone,” he insisted.
Paratroopers in Belarus
But tensions went up another notch when Russia dispatched paratroopers to Belarus on Friday, stationing them along the border with Poland. The Kremlin claimed the deployment was for joint drills to be held with the Belarus army.
“A unit of Russian paratroopers will practice a landing in an unknown territory in the Hrodna region of Belarus on Nov. 12 as part of drills to inspect combat readiness of the paratrooper forces,” Russia’s defense ministry said Friday in a statement.
Russia has also been accused of being behind Belarus sending refugees, mostly from the Middle East and Asia, over the border into Poland. At least 2,000 refugees are stuck at the border, just inside Belarus, trapped between Polish guards on one side, and Belarusian guards on the other. The winter conditions are wreaking havoc on the refugee camp.
Mateusz Morawiecki, Poland’s Prime Minister, claimed Russia was using the crisis to destabilize his country. He described the situation as “a new type of war in which people are used as human shields”, and said Poland was dealing with a “stage play” which is designed to create chaos in the EU.
In October, Poland recorded 15,000 attempted illegal border crossings. Last week Poland deployed 2,500 more troops to the border, bringing to 10,000 the number of soldiers patrolling the country’s border.
Russia’s defense ministry claimed Thursday it scrambled a Sukhoi SU-30 warplane to intercept a British spy plane, a British Boeing RC-135, when it neared Crimea. Russia responded by flying two long-range nuclear-capable Russian Tupolev Tu-22M3 supersonic long-range bombers over Belarusian airspace on Wednesday and again on Thursday.
The rest of the world is concerned about the mounting tensions.
“Our concern is that Russia may make a serious mistake of attempting to rehash what it undertook back in 2014 when it amassed forces along the border, crossed into sovereign Ukrainian territory and did so claiming falsely that it was provoked,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday said, referring to Russia’s invasion of Crimea. “So the playbook that we’ve seen in the past was to claim some provocation as a rationale for doing what it, what it intended and planned to do. All which is why we’re looking at this very carefully.”
Belarus requests Russian nuclear-capable missiles
The situation took on a new dimension on Saturday when President Alexander Lukashenko said in an interview with a Russian National Defence magazine that he wanted to position Russian nuclear assets in his country.
Lukashenko told the magazine that he needed the Iskander mobile ballistic missile system, which has a range of over 300 miles and can carry either conventional or nuclear warheads.
“I need several divisions in the west and the south, let them stand (there),” he said.
If installed, the system would threaten Poland and Lithuania that lie to the west of Belarus and Ukraine to the south.