Russia now has about 265,000 troops stationed within 250 miles of its border with Ukraine, according to a new assessment of troop movements by Ukrainian Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Oleksiy Danilov.
Danilov revealed the assessment of Russian military activity during a visit to the Ivano-Frankivsk region, the Ukrainian state-run National News Agency of Ukraine (also known as Ukrinform) reported on Wednesday.
Danilov said of the 265,000 Russian troops, 122,000 are located within 200 km (125 miles) of the Russian border with Ukraine. Another 143,500 troops are located between 200 and 400 km (250 miles) of the Ukrainian border.
Danilov’s assessment represents an increase in Russia’s troop presence in recent days. For weeks, Russian troops have been massing near the Ukraine border. Until now, assessments have put the number of Russian troops near Ukraine’s border at between 80,000 and 110,000.
The Ukrainian national defense secretary said the security conditions along the border between Ukraine and Russia have not been calm since 2014, when Russian forces invaded and annexed Crimea and began supporting an ongoing insurgency in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.
“We understand what is happening there, and in the event of an escalation – which can’t happen instantly, relatively speaking within a today, we need to prepare for this – we are monitoring all this,” Danilov said.
Danilov went on to tout the passage of legislation in Ukraine, known as Presidential Bill No.5557 “On the Fundamentals of National Resistance,” which codifies how Ukraine will organize its population to resist a potential invasion. Danilov noted the law goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2022.
“We have additional resources, and the territorial defense, if necessary, will repel the aggressor,” he said. “Weapons must remain lubricated. I wish we don’t have to use them, but if necessary, all citizens know what to do.”
The ongoing troop buildup near Ukraine has raised concerns among western nations that Russia could attack. Earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. has evidence Russia is planning to attack.
“We’re deeply concerned by evidence that Russia made plans for significant aggressive moves against Ukraine,” Blinken said. “The plans include efforts to destabilize Ukraine from within, as well as large scale military operations.”
“Now we’ve seen this playbook before. In 2014, when Russia last invaded Ukraine. Then, as now, they significantly increased combat forces near the border,” he continued. “Then, as now, they intensified disinformation to paint Ukraine as the aggressor to justify preplanned military action. We’ve seen that tactic again in just the past 24 hours. In recent weeks, we’ve also observed a massive spike, more than ten fold, in social media activity pushing anti-Ukrainian propaganda approaching levels last seen in the lead up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014.”
Biden administration officials also told the Washington Post, on condition of anonymity, “Russian plans call for a military offensive against Ukraine as soon as early 2022 with a scale of forces twice what we saw this past spring during Russia’s snap exercise near Ukraine’s borders.” This past spring, about 100,000 Russian troops gathered near Ukraine.