Russia is continuing to build up its forces around the Ukrainian border, with up to nearly half of Moscow’s battle groups surrounding Ukraine now within 50 kilometers (about 31 miles) of the border, Western officials said Thursday.
Speaking during an intelligence briefing, the officials said that Russia retains “exceptional force” on Ukraine’s border and has the military mass in place to conduct an invasion of Ukraine, adding that of the 14 battlegroups believed to have been in transit toward the border earlier in the week, a significant number have now arrived in place.
In addition to the buildup of troops, the officials noted the construction of a pontoon bridge over the past 72 hours, which they described as being highly unusual and inconsistent with any past military exercises.
They also noted three additional vessels arriving at dock in Crimea and the addition of military vehicles and helicopters in Valyiuki in southwest Russia, which is 25 kilometers (about 15.5 miles) from Ukraine’s border.
Responding to reports by both the Ukrainian armed forces and separatists controlling parts of eastern Ukraine of renewed shelling in the Donbas region early Thursday, the Western officials said their sensors did not pick up evidence to support the use of artillery.
The officials added that there have been routine exchanges for several years, but said that they have seen no evidence to support a spike at present.