New satellite images have raised concerns that Russia may be planning to attack Ukraine.
Kiev alleges that Russia is positioning tanks and snipers opposite Ukrainian lines in an attempt to provoke a confrontation which could justify a full scale invasion.
Russia’s troops and heavy weapons have been massing on the border between the two countries in what appears to be a major escalation of the conflict which has simmered between the two countries since 2014.
Russians positioned for invasion
U.S. intelligence reports are suggesting that the troop movements mean that Vladimir Putin may be preparing for an invasion which will finally end the stalemate in the contested regions of eastern Ukraine.
Separatist rebels have been waging a low intensity war against Ukrainian forces for years now, with both sides usually only facing each other from their trench lines in an uneasy truce.
The Ukrainians have been very wary about being too aggressive against the ethnic Russian rebels, fearing that Russia might launch an open attack if the separatists seem to be facing defeat.
Moscow claims that it has positioned troops on the border precisely for this potential development, alleging that it has no intention of making an unprovoked attack.
Ukrainian Defense Ministry officials, however, fear that the Russians are planning to invent a provocation which will justify a real invasion.
Provoking a minor border clash to manufacture a casus belli is one of the classic methods of sparking a war when only one side is looking for a fight. With Russian snipers apparently increasing in number near Ukrainian forces Moscow is well positioned to provoke something if it really wants to do so.
Ukraine on edge
U.S. officials say that Russia might be ready to begin an invasion in early 2022. The massing of regular troops and heavy weaponry on the border is a new development in a conflict which has mostly seen the Russians providing more covert aid to separatists.
The Russian military has come a long way since the early days of the Russian Federation, when it struggled to defeat the tiny rebel nation of Chechnya after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Under Putin the Russians have returned to their former status as a very menacing presence threatening their Eastern European neighbors, particularly the Ukrainians.
In 2014 Russia conquered the Crimean Peninsula while Kiev was distracted by internal turmoil. If Putin is serious about starting another invasion before the Ukrainians get too close to NATO then his army will be ready for it.
While Russia undoubtedly has the stronger military, Ukrainian forces are likely to fight stubbornly against the Russians and they have had plenty of time to prepare for this contingency.
If Putin is really preparing to launch an invasion and put an end to the stalemate in Ukraine then the conflict has the potential to become very bloody very quickly.