Tensions have been rising again along the Russian-Ukrainian border, with Kyiv and Washington raising the alarm at what they say is an unusual build-up of Russian troops.
Ukraine’s defence ministry claimed earlier this month that about 90,000 Russian soldiers were stationed near their border and in rebel-controlled areas in Ukraine’s east.
Units of the Russian 41st army have remained in Yelnya, a town 260 kilometres north of the Ukrainian border, according to the ministry.
“What we see is a significant, large Russian military build-up. We see an unusual concentration of troops. And we know that Russia has been willing to use these types of military capabilities before to conduct aggressive actions against Ukraine,” said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg last week.
The comments came after reports that the United States warned the European Union that Moscow might be planning an invasion of its ex-Soviet neighbour.
Russian officials have denied they are planning incursions into Ukraine, citing what they called many threats from Ukraine and allegedly provocative actions by US warships in the Black Sea.
Russia has supported a separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine that erupted shortly after Moscow’s 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. The conflict has left more than 14,000 people dead.
In the spring of this year, a massive build-up of Russian troops near the border raised concerns in Ukraine and in the West, fueling fears of an escalation of hostilities.
But the troops were eventually pulled out after a few weeks as US President Joe Biden held a summit with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
Could the latest military build-up be of a different nature, namely a prelude to a Russian invasion?
Euronews spoke to military and foreign policy experts to shed light on the Russian troops’ movements and their implications for Ukraine and its Western allies.
What do we know about Russia’s troops build-up?
“Some of the important deployments we actually only know from satellite imagery, which is, of course, not the most accurate way to know about things,” said Gustav Gressel, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).