As Russian and Belarusian defense forces conducted joint military exercises with up to 30,000 troops covering areas along Kiev’s borders, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the Ukrainian President, said: “The buildup of forces on the border is psychological pressure from our neighbours. His remarks came as NATO nations and Washington warned that Russian leader Putin had completed more than 70% of the troop deployment needed to launch an offensive on Kiev.
While the Kremlin said in a statement that Russian troops would return home after the drills, Kiev, suspicious of Russia’s intentions, launched its own military drill to deter Russia. General Oleksandr Syrskyi, commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, mobilized more than 10,000 troops who he said were involved in the Ukrainian drills, sources told the Guardian newspaper.
“We specifically moved the formation of the armed forces to the most dangerous enemy attack lines,” General Oleksandr Syrskyi announced.
Syrskyi spoke separately to Sky News in Australia and claimed Ukraine is “ready and able and we will not give up a single meter of Ukrainian land without a fight”. He accused Russia of unnecessary threats, saying that if Russia invaded Ukraine, “every meter of land would be drenched in their blood.”
A Ukrainian serviceman walks through a destroyed industrial complex surrounded by bullet-riddled metal panels at a frontline position outside Avdiivka in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine. Credit: AP
Ukraine urged Moscow to withdraw its troops from the border, it was “serious” about de-escalating the tense situation. “If Russian officials are serious when they say they do not want another war, Russia must continue its diplomatic engagement and withdraw the military forces it has amassed along Ukraine’s borders and in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine,” Kyiv’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said. tweeted yesterday.
Kiev’s demands were ignored by Russian leader Putin, who in turn asked for “security guarantees” from the NATO alliance, which he said brought its military forces “first on our doorstep.” “If they don’t intend to, then they should explain why,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told state television.