Russian forces with heavy artillery and tanks have in two weeks piled at least 28 battalion tactical groups on the northern and eastern borders of Ukraine, while also placing Russian invasion forces in Crimea on the ready. Moscow says its forces are preparing a large-scale military exercise, although no timeline was set. In Washington, at NATO HQ and in West European capitals, Moscow is suspected of preparing another round of Ukraine warfare in order to expand the holdings of the pro-Russian separatists and jolt the pro-Western government in Kyev.
Fearing the worst, the Ukraine government asked NATO and Europe for help, which prompted a warning from Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov of “additional measures” should European troops come to Kyev’s aid.
Another Ukraine invasion by Russia would confront President Joe Biden with his first foreign military challenge and test his resolve. In a bid to head off a clash, the Chairman of the US Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, ten days ago, talked to his Russian and Ukrainian counterparts, Gen. Valelry Gerasimov and Lt. Gen Ruslan Khomchak. The content of these calls was not released, and the Russian deployments are still in place – further raising temperatures.
Observers in Washington are watching the spreading demonstrations through 100 Russian towns on behalf of the jailed anti-Putin opposition leader, Alexei Navalny. They recall that serious riots in Russia against Putin in 2014 gave him the impetus for the invasion of Crimea.
DEBKAfile’s sources in Washington also gained the impression that the Russian leader was still smarting from President Biden’s insulting reference to him on March 16 as a “killer without a soul” and may have chosen this moment and the Ukrainian venue to get back at him. .
Edgy Ukrainian intelligence officers last week voiced their concerns to Turkish officers. Ankara responded on the spot with orders for a first batch of 7,000 mercenaries to stand by for a signal to deploy to Ukraine in an emergency. Secret registration centers were opened to enlist mercenaries ready to go to Ukraine. According to these soldiers for hire, so-called by Turkey the “National Army,” the Ukrainian contract would be more lucrative than the pay they received on the Libyan fronts and more recently, the Karabakh region in Azerbaijan. They could make up to 4,000 dollars, especially welcome since President Tayyip Erdogan had no jobs to offer these mercenaries after those warfronts subsided.