Russia’s buildup of troops at Ukraine’s borders has persisted, despite Moscow’s claims of a drawdown, but the number of Russian forces remains insufficient for an invasion, according to a Ukrainian intelligence report shared exclusively with CNN.
The total number of Russian troops at the border has increased in recent days to more than 148,000, including more than 126,000 ground troops, the report says, echoing US intelligence about the build-up. A Ukrainian presidential spokesperson affirmed the reporting in comments to CNN ahead of an address by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow was sending some of its troops at the border back to base after completing exercises. On Wednesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg rejected Putin’s claim and said the military buildup was continuing, describing it as “the most serious crisis in decades.”
A statement by NATO later on Wednesday said the buildup was “very large scale, unprovoked and unjustified.” NATO also said it was deploying additional land forces in the eastern part of the alliance, in addition to maritime and air assets. The measures, the statement said, remained “proportionate” and “non-escalatory,” in response to the “serious threat” of the Russian troop buildup.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also said that there was “no meaningful pullback.”
“Unfortunately there’s a difference between what Russia says and what it does. And what we’re seeing is no meaningful pullback,” Blinken said on ABC’s Good Morning America.
“On the contrary, we continue to see forces, especially forces that would be in the vanguard of any renewed aggression against Ukraine, continuing to be at the border, to mass at the border,” he said.
The US alleged on Wednesday evening that Russian forces massed along Ukraine’s borders have increased by approximately 7,000 troops in recent days, with a senior US administration official saying the increase renders Russia’s assertion of withdrawal “false.”
The official said that Putin’s public openness to diplomacy was a guise, saying, “Every indication we have now is they mean only to publicly offer to talk, and make claims about de-escalation, while privately mobilizing for war.”