More than 100,000 Russian soldiers in assault vehicles painted with “invasion stripes” headed for the Ukrainian border on Wednesday, heightening fears of war between neighboring nations.
The advancing force includes 1,300 main battle tanks, 3,700 drones, 1,300 artillery and mortar units and 380 multiple rocket launcher systems, according to documents leaked to the Daily Mirror.
Tensions between the countries escalated after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean territory in 2014, an attempt by Moscow to push NATO away from its borders. Ukraine is not a member of NATO, but support for the organization has increased in recent years and the country is allied with many NATO countries – including the United States.
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Kiev has claimed 14,000 people have died in the ongoing conflict, and many fear Russian President Vladimir Putin believes the COVID-19 pandemic is the right time to attack and control large parts of the country, according to the report.
The appearance of painted stripes on Russian armored vehicles headed for the front lines reminded military experts of similar stripes on tanks used by the Soviet Army during the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia, the Mirror reports. Scratches are used to deter friendly fire.
The military exercise could also be seen as a challenge for the United States, as President Biden is expected to impose sanctions on Russia for election interference, hacking and bounties on troops in Afghanistan.
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The Biden administration sent warships to the Black Sea to defend against the military build-up, and Russia warned the United States to withdraw.
The Kremlin has claimed it offers protection to pro-Russian citizens in eastern Ukraine, warning of the return of “Nazi Europe,” according to the article.
This story first appeared in the New York Post.
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