The majority of Ukraine’s borders are vulnerable to an invasion by Moscow as roughly half of the country shares a border with Russia.
Caitlin McFall 4 – 5 minutes
“If there was a war in Ukraine, we must take into account the influx of real refugees – people who flee the fire, people who flee from death, who flee from the atrocities of war,” Deputy Interior Minister Maciej Wąsik told Polish Radio late last month.
“We must be prepared for the black scenario,” he added.
An instructor trains members of Ukraine’s Territorial Defense Forces, volunteer military units of the Armed Forces, in a city park in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. Dozens of civilians have been joining Ukraine’s army reserves in recent weeks amid fears about Russian invasion. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
But the threat of an incursion goes beyond Ukraine’s proximity to Russia.
The Kremlin has not only amassed roughly 100,000 troops on its southern border but deployed an additional 30,000 troops to neighboring Belarus – whose border is less than a three-hour drive to Kyiv.
“If our country faces an aggression, there will be hundreds of thousands of Russian soldiers here, who will defend this sacred land together with hundreds of thousands of Belarusians,” Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko warned in late January.
The U.S. and its NATO allies have responded to the increased military presence surrounding Ukraine by deploying additional troops to countries like Poland and Romania – both of which sit west of Ukraine.
Local residents train close to Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022. Russia’s foreign minister claims that NATO wants to pull Ukraine into the alliance, amid escalating tensions over NATO expansion and fears that Russia is preparing to invade Ukraine. In comments on state television Sunday, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also challenged NATO’s claim to be a purely defensive structure.
But the threat of conflict has caught the attention of nearly every surrounding Eastern European nation and NATO has considered sending a small contingency of troops to Slovakia.
Moldova, which sits under Ukraine, declared independence from the USSR in 1991 but shares a complex past with Russia.
A small fraction state called Transdniestria broke away from Moldova in the early 90s and politically aligns itself with Russia.
Neither the United Nations, Moldova nor Russia recognize the breakaway state, but Russia has placed roughly 1,000 troops in the region for military drills – a move the Moldovan government has condemned.
Russia continues to allege its troop movement is not an indication that Moscow intends to invade Kyiv should the U.S. and NATO not adhere to its demands regarding missile placement and NATO membership.
Russian tanks T-72B3 take part in drills at the Kadamovskiy firing range in the Rostov region in southern Russia, Jan. 12, 2022. Amid a buildup of Russian troops near Ukraine, Moscow has denied planning an attack on Ukraine but urged the U.S. and its allies to provide a binding pledge that NATO won’t expand to Ukraine and won’t deploy military assets there – a demand rejected by the West. (AP Photo, File )
In a Tuesday tweet the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed, “NATO has designated Russia an adversary.”
“While advancing its military infrastructure very close to our border, NATO and its member states believe that they have a right to teach us where and how we can deploy our armed forces,” the statement added.
The U.S. and NATO have condemned these comments and warned that Russia could look to fabricate an excuse to justify its invasion of Ukraine.