Russia's military exercises near Ukraine intensified Tuesday while President Joe Biden tried to rally support among NATO allies in an attempt to dissuade President Vladimir Putin from invading the Eastern European country.
The Kremlin announced new military exercises involving thousands of troops, tanks, elite paratroopers and short-range ballistic missiles that are intended to project strength, military analysts told The Washington Post.
The analysts added that the moves also were aimed at increasing pressure on NATO and Ukraine, as well as keeping the U.S. and its allies off balance.
However, the Conflict Intelligence Team, an independent Russian open-source investigative group, reported the first confirmed video of Russian paratroopers moving closer to Ukraine — a development considered "ominous."
"Airborne troops would be indispensable for any large-scale offensive, either in an air landing behind the lines or as ‘shock infantry’ (both Russian and Ukrainian airborne units were used in the latter capacity during the ‘hot phase’ of the war in Eastern Ukraine),” CIT tweeted.
"This, coupled with the continuous buildup of other Russian forces north of Kyiv in Belarus and further northeast in Russia's Bryansk region, as well as recent British statements, makes an offensive towards Kyiv a possible scenario of a Russian operation in Ukraine," an ensuing CIT tweet said.
Rob Lee, a Russian military expert and fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, told the Post that Russia would not conduct a new invasion without the airborne units.
Moscow attributed its actions to countering the U.S. "building up tension" by putting American forces on high alert.
The U.S. Embassy in Ukraine advised Americans to leave the country because of the "threat of Russian military aggression."
The U.S. Defense Department on Tuesday indicated that the 8,500 U.S. military personnel put on "prepare-to-deploy orders" could be only a starting point.
"We are observing these actions of the United States with profound concern," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
The Associated Press reported that Biden administration officials had been working to get NATO allies on the same page with a Russian attack seen as more likely.
The Post reported that Russian exercises and preparedness checks announced Tuesday encompassed parts of southern, western and eastern Russia; and parts of Moldova and Crimea. Also, Russia’s Pacific Fleet conducted drills with Chinese ships in the Arabian Sea.
Ukraine's national security secretary said Russia is benefiting from the "internal destabilization" fueled by hysteria from the Biden administration, Britain, and allies.
Although U.S. officials have said there are no plans to increase military presence inside Ukraine — approximately 200 American troops currently are training and advising Ukrainian forces — the Biden administration has boosted other forms of assistance.
The Post reported that 300 Javelin missiles, shoulder-launched multipurpose assault weapons and bunker-busters arrived at Boryspil International Airport outside Kyiv on Tuesday from the U.S.
"Russian soldiers sent to Ukraine at the behest of the Kremlin will face fierce resistance," Kristina A. Kvien, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine said, according to the Post . "The losses to Russia will be heavy."
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