| 20 April 2024, Saturday |

NATO says Russia still adding troops to Ukraine build-up

Even as Moscow maintained it was withdrawing forces and was open to diplomacy, NATO accused Russia of moving additional troops to a major military buildup around Ukraine on Wednesday.

Separately, a senior Western intelligence officer cautioned that Russian military drills were at an all-time high, and that the likelihood of Russian aggression against Ukraine would stay high for the rest of February.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg looked dubious that the prospect of a Russian invasion of Ukraine had reduced at the opening of two days of discussions among NATO military ministers, and expressed cautious expectations for dialogue.

There has been no sign of Russian forces withdrawing. And, of course, that goes against the diplomatic message,” Stoltenberg said. “What we observe is that the number of troops has increased, and more forces are on their way.” So yet, there has been no de-escalation.”

Moscow is attempting to prevent the former Soviet republic from ever joining NATO’s armed alliance. NATO has refused to give in to that demand, and on Wednesday, defense ministers attempted to present a united front.

On Tuesday, US President Joe Biden warned that more than 150,000 Russian troops remained stationed near Ukraine’s borders.

The Russian defense ministry released a video depicting tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, and self-propelled artillery units departing the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

According to intelligence, Russian military exercises will be at their most active over the balance of February, according to the senior Western official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

“We are at a peak period where the Russian exercises that were announced are in their active phases,” the person said, adding that Russia would most likely fire ballistic missiles eastward from Belarus as part of its training.

“At this point, there are no credible signals of any form of military de-escalation,” the official said.

According to the official, Russia could now strike Ukraine “with practically no, or little-to-no, warning.”


During the build-up, Russia has frequently moved military equipment and troops, according to Stoltenberg.

“Movement of forces, such as battle tanks, does not imply a genuine withdrawal,” he explained.

In response to the Russian threat in Ukraine’s north, east, and south, NATO is discussing fresh moves to deter Russia on its eastern frontier on Wednesday.

According to diplomats, 4,000 extra troops might be deployed in four battlegroups in Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Slovakia.

Jaroslav Nad, the Slovak Defense Minister, indicated on Tuesday, before leaving for NATO, that the Czech Republic may be part of a battlegroup in Slovakia, but that talks were still in the early stages. Prague did not respond to a request for comment right away.

“If we build a structure here that is made up of units with capabilities that Slovakia lacks, which is what we are working on,” he continued, “it not only increases our defense capabilities but also saves money.”

Ministers also discussed the alliance’s nuclear deterrents, though the details were kept under wraps. Russia has built up a sizable arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons.

Following the soul-searching that followed last year’s disastrous exit from Afghanistan, the present crisis has energized NATO and given the alliance a newfound sense of purpose.

As she came for the conference, Canada’s Defence Minister Anita Anand stated, “The escalation of Russian forces at the Ukrainian border is escalating and significant, and implores us as an alliance to continue to work together.”

  • Reuters