Russia says it's not planning an invasion as the US and others raise concerns about troop buildup near Ukraine

Russia says it's not planning an invasion as the US and others raise concerns about troop buildup near Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin at a ceremonial event. MIKHAIL METZEL/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images
  • The US and others have raised concerns about Russian military activities near Ukraine.
  • Reports have said that the US has talked to allies about the possibility of a Russian invasion.

The US is raising concerns over a large military buildup of Russian forces and equipment near the Ukrainian border, but Moscow insists it is not planning an invasion.

The alarming Russian military activity, which the Pentagon this week called "unusual in size and scope" and driven by unclear intentions, has triggered some concern in Washington and European capitals. The Ukrainian foreign minister said last week that Russia had an estimated 90,000 troops in an area near its eastern border.

"We are concerned with the reports of the unusual Russian activity near Ukraine," Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said during a press briefing Wednesday.

"We don't have clarity into Moscow's intentions, but we do know its playbook," he said. "And our concern is that Russia may make the 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."

The senior diplomat's comments referenced Russia's seizure of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, giving Russia unfettered access to the Black Sea. Russian-backed separatists continue to wage war in eastern Ukraine, where thousands have been killed.


Amid the buildup of Russian troops and equipment in areas along the Ukraine border, the US has been discussing the possibility that Russia may be planning an invasion of Ukraine with European allies, Bloomberg reported Thursday.

"We continue to watch the situation, and the information we gathered so far is rather worrying," European Union foreign affairs spokesperson Peter Stano said Friday.

Russia has pushed back on the concerns about its military activities near Ukraine. "Russia doesn't threaten anyone," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Thursday, according to the Associated Press. "The movement of troops on our territory shouldn't be a cause for anyone's concern."

On the possibility of an invasion, Russian deputy ambassador to the UN Dmitry Polyansky said the same day Russia has "never planned, never did, and is never going to do it unless we're provoked by Ukraine, or by somebody else."

As the secretary of state said this week, there is concern about what Russia might characterize as a provocation. "The playbook that we've seen in the past is to claim some provocation as a rationale for doing what it's intended and planned to do all along, which is why we're looking at this very carefully," Blinken said.


On Friday, Peskov called suggestions that Russia was planning an invasion "a hollow and unfounded attempt to incite tensions." He blamed other countries for stirring up trouble in the region, pointing to US Navy activities in the Black Sea and other "provocations" near its borders.

He asserted that Russia takes "measures to ensure our security when our opponents take defiant action near our borders," adding that "we can't stay indifferent to that. We must be on our guard."

The Russian build-up may not be an anomaly. Since its annexation of Crimea, Russia has been growing its military presence in what had previously been a largely rural area with minimal basing - reflecting in part concerns about NATO responses. The latest signs of a build-up could also be evidence of this boosted military presence and the seasonal drills Russian troops travel to in October and November, the Jamestown Foundation think tank wrote in a recent report.

The latest concerns about Russian military activities near Ukraine follow another scare in April, when tens of thousands of Russian troops - possibly as many as 100,000, according to some estimations - and a lot of military equipment were positioned near the border.

Russia later described the movements as a "snap drill" and began pulling troops back, stating that they had "demonstrated the ability to provide a reliable defense of the country."