KIEV, Aug. 30 – Russia has amassed 100,000 troops on its border with Ukraine for military exercises that may result in “bloody consequences” should it decide to escalate the armed conflict in Donbas, President Petro Poroshenko’s spokesman said Tuesday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on August 25 ordered the exercises to examine the ability of Russian troops “to deploy promptly to localize crisis situations.”
The exercises are officially supposed to end on Wednesday, but Russia has earlier used large-scale military maneuvers to stage attacks on its targets, for example Georgia in August 2008 and Crimea in February 2014.
“Any escalation of the conflict will have very bloody consequences both for Russia and for our forces,” Andriy Lysenko, the spokesman on the conflict in Donbas, told Radio Liberty. “That’s why the Russian aggressor has been carefully weighing and conducting a thorough reconnaissance.”
There are at least 40,000 troops led by Russian army officers in Donetsk and Luhansk, but Russia has added up to 60,000 troops in other parts of the border with Ukraine, Lysenko said.
“There 40,000 troops in Donbas and up to 60,000 along the northern and eastern borders,” Lysenko said. “This group is constantly changing and is being increased. There is a transfer of airborne units, as they are deployed along the border and landed in Crimea. They keep adding equipment, and they have 700 Russian tanks only in Donbas.”
The exercises come as tensions between Ukraine and Russia worsened after Putin had accused Kiev earlier this month of using “terror” tactics after killing two service members in Crimea.
Russia last week deployed tens of thousands of troops to newly built military bases on the Ukrainian border. The Kremlin said the move is part of a military strategy to counter perceived threats from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Poroshenko, in response, ordered troops on the border with Crimea and the frontline in Eastern Ukraine on high alert after Russian accusations that Ukrainian intelligence agents plotted terror attacks on the peninsula.
He warned that the country may have to move toward martial law and mobilization to prepare for a “full scale Russian invasion.”
Russia plans to hold large-scale military drills in Crimea next month. Military analysts said Russian-Ukrainian tensions are at the highest point since a February 2015 ceasefire agreement brokered in Minsk. (nr/ez)