Ukraine fears ‘big war’ as Russia sends in more troops

Rocket attacks and peace-deal violations fuel concerns

Military authorities in Ukraine believe the number of Russian troops within and close to its borders has risen to more than 50,000, raising fears of a substantial escalation in the conflict raging in Ukraine’s eastern regions.

Almost 9,000 Russian Federation Armed Forces personnel are believed to be based inside Ukraine, according to reports from the country’s National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) seen by The Independent on Sunday. The rest are based in the neighbouring Rostov region of Russia, including mechanised assault units and communications command systems.

This is in addition to 33,400 so-called “illegal armed formations” of Russian-backed separatist soldiers inside eastern Ukraine, with 400 main battle tanks and close to 2,000 armoured troop carriers reported to be at “full combat readiness”.

Western countries have repeatedly accused Russia of becoming involved in the conflict, a claim Moscow has denied – despite what Ukraine and other observers see as evidence of troop build-up.

Western officials have been quick to talk of their “concern” at the rise in the number of attacks and rocket fire between Ukrainian forces and the Russian-backed separatists in recent days. Specifically, there is concern at the number of violations of a ceasefire agreement, implemented back in February after talks in Minsk, that was aimed at ending the conflict. While the levels of fighting have decreased since then, the recent surge is worrying. For example, the firing of banned “Grad” multiple-rocket launch systems restarted last Wednesday evening, with dozens of separate Grad rocket attacks recorded through to yesterday [SAT]  morning.

Russian-backed separatists were believed to have fired Grad rockets at residential areas of Opytne, Avdiivka, and Starohnativka on Thursday night. By Friday morning, Alexander Turchynov, the secretary of the National Security and Defence Council (NSDC), said that Ukraine might be forced to declare martial law and full mobilisation.

“Ukrainian armed forces are ready to not only to repel attacks, but if necessary to counter enemy forces,” Mr Turchynov said.

Full article: Ukraine fears ‘big war’ as Russia sends in more troops (The Independent)

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