Russian invasion of Ukraine has begun News and Update | World Defense

Russian invasion of Ukraine has begun News and Update

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Secretary of state says Vladimir Putin’s military intentions still unclear ahead of talks in Geneva
Antony Blinken gives a press conference following his meeting with the Ukrainian foreign minister in Kyiv

Antony Blinken gives a press conference following his meeting with the Ukrainian foreign minister in Kyiv. Photograph: Alex Brandon/AFP/Getty Images

Luke Harding in Kyiv and Andrew Roth in Moscow
Wed 19 Jan 2022 16.44 GMT

The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, has said Russia could take “further aggressive action” against Ukraine “at any moment”, adding that Vladimir Putin’s military intentions were still unclear as he prepared for talks with his Russian counterpart at the end of the week.

Speaking after meeting Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in Kyiv, Blinken said Russia had amassed “very significant forces” on Ukraine’s borders, including in Belarus where major exercises are due to begin next month. It could double them in “relatively short order”, he said.

Before talks on Friday in Geneva with Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, Blinken said he was relentlessly pursuing a peaceful solution to the crisis. But there seem few signs that Moscow and Washington can reach diplomatic agreement in Switzerland.

The Kremlin wants Nato forces to withdraw from eastern Europe and to return to 1997 levels of deployment. Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Rybakov, said on Wednesday that Moscow would be satisfied with a unilateral US commitment to vote against Nato membership for Ukraine.

Blinken said he did not have a “piece of paper” by way of answer to Russia’s latest security demands, but he appeared to rule out a veto promise over Ukraine’s future, saying closing Nato’s doors to new members was an “absolute non-starter”.

US officials have described the Kremlin military buildup as extremely dangerous, with the White House spokesperson Jen Psaki saying an onslaught could happen at any time. Asked what Russia might do next, Blinken said: “I can’t read Vladimir Putin’s mind.”

But he pointed out that Russia’s president had a long history of aggressive behaviour. This included attacking Georgia in 2008 and annexing Crimea in 2014, and “training, arming and leading” a separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine. Blinken added: “We have to base our actions on the facts.”

After Kyiv, Blinken is due to travel to Berlin for talks with German and European allies. Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said relations with the US were advancing at “Formula One speed”. He acknowledged Russia was refusing to negotiate with his government directly, saying: “Mr Lavrov is avoiding me.”

Russia has brushed off calls to withdraw its troops from the Ukrainian border by saying it has a right to deploy its forces wherever it likes on its own territory. It also has rejected US allegations that it is preparing a pretext to invade Ukraine. Lavrov dismissed the US claim of a Russian “false-flag operation” as “total disinformation”.
Speaking at a meeting of the Valdai discussion club, Ryabkov repeated Moscow’s denials it had plans to attack Ukraine.

“I am confident that there is no risk of a large-scale war that could break out in Europe or somewhere else. We do not intend to take any aggressive steps,” he said. “We have no intention of attacking, staging an offensive on or invading Ukraine.”

Ryabkov said Moscow would not consider an informal moratorium on Ukraine’s entrance into Nato sufficient. “If the US assumes a unilateral legally binding commitment that it will never vote in favour of admitting Ukraine and other countries to Nato, we will be ready to consider this option. It would be an easier path for the US,” he added.

Meanwhile, Russia continued its deployment of military assets from its far east to the borders of Ukraine. Open source researchers said on Wednesday they had identified elements of a BM-27 Uragan rocket artillery launcher in Belarus about 200km (125 miles) from Kyiv.

The deployment of heavy rocket artillery so close to the Ukrainian capital could further increase fears that the plans for joint exercises could provide cover for a Russian-led advance that could quickly engulf Kyiv and its government.

On Wednesday Russia’s defence ministry released fresh details of the joint exercises, which are set to begin next month and continue until 20 February. Russia was planning to deploy 12 Sukhoi Su-35 air defence fighters to Belarus for the exercises, along with S-400 and Pantsir anti-air defence systems, the ministry said in a statement.

The Biden administration has promised to boost military assistance to Ukraine in the event of a Russian operation, but has ruled out sending troops. On Wednesday Blinken said military support was continuing, with deliveries last year at their highest level since 2014.

The US has also been supplying Ukraine with classified intelligence. The CIA director, William Burns, visited Kyiv last week and shared its risk assessment with Zelenskiy’s cabinet, a US official said.

Zelenskiy said he was counting on enhanced US cooperation. “Grateful for US’s political & security support. Count on enhancing economic & financial cooperation. I’m sure there will be no decision about Ukraine without Ukraine,” he wrote in a tweet.

The US has promised massive financial and economic consequences in the event of invasion. Officials say Washington remains committed to seeking a “diplomatic off-ramp” and add that the Geneva talks suggest diplomacy is “perhaps not dead”.

 

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British military aircraft rapidly supplying weapons to Ukraine​

By George Allison
January 17, 2022

British C-17 transport aircraft are currently moving “light anti-armour” weapons into Ukraine in light of “increasingly threatening” behaviour from Russia.

According to a statement given by the Defence Secretary in the House of Commons today, the 17th of January 2022.

“As of today, tens of thousands of Russian troops are positioned close to the Ukrainian border. Their deployment is not routine, and they are equipped with tanks, armoured fighting vehicles, rocket artillery, and short-range ballistic missiles. I can today confirm to the House that, in light of the increasingly threatening behaviour from Russia, and in addition to our current support, the UK is providing a new security assistance package to increase Ukraine’s defensive capabilities.

We have taken the decision to supply Ukraine with light, anti-armour, defensive weapon systems. A small number of UK personnel will also provide early-stage training for a short period of time, within the framework of Operation ORBITAL, before then returning to the United Kingdom. This security assistance package complements the training and capabilities that Ukraine already has, and those that are also being provided by the UK and other Allies in Europe and the United States. Ukraine has every right to defend its borders, and this new package of aid further enhances its ability to do so.

Let me be clear: this support is for short-range, and clearly defensive weapons capabilities; they are not strategic weapons and pose no threat to Russia. They are to use in self-defence and the UK personnel providing the early-stage training will return to the United Kingdom after completing it.”


British Military Assistance to Ukraine – what’s involved?​

British military assistance to Ukraine was increased significantly after 2014 and the Russian annexation of Crimea, a Parliamentary Research Briefing paper has taken a look at just what that involves.

In 2015 the UK launched Operation Orbital, a non-lethal training and capacity building operation that provides guidance and training to the Ukrainian armed forces.

“In August 2020 the MOD announced that the UK will lead a new multinational maritime training initiative that will boost the capacity of Ukraine’s Navy to act in the Black Sea. The UK and Ukraine have also launched the Naval Capabilities Enhancement Programme, which will develop Ukraine’s naval capabilities. To date, over 21,000 Ukrainian military personnel have been trained under these initiatives. The UK has also gifted £2.2 million of non-lethal military equipment.”

In June 2021 the UK, Ukraine and industry signed a Memorandum of Implementation that will push the NCEP forward. Work will now commence on:

• Ukraine’s purchase of two refurbished Royal Navy Sandown-class minehunters in a government-to-government sale
• The sale and integration of missiles on new and in-service Ukrainian Navy patrol and airborne platforms, including a training and engineering support package
• Assistance in building new naval bases in the Black Sea and Azov Sea
• The development and joint production of eight fast missile warships
• Participation in the Ukrainian project to deliver a modern frigate capability.

Recently, HMS Defender ignored Russian warnings while the warship was sailing near Crimea, so Russia hit back with information warfare trying to paint a story of aggression.

Additionally, British surveillance aircraft have been keeping an eye on Russian forces. Last week, a British RC-135 ‘Rivet Joint’ intelligence-gathering aircraft once again deployed to Crimea to keep an eye on Russian forces near the border with Ukraine.

Earlier, we reported that there has been an increase in the frequency of British RC-135 aircraft being deployed to the Black Sea region near Ukraine’s border with Russia. The UK has deployed an aircraft for this task every few days over the last month or so.

British surveillance aircraft being over the Black Sea near Crimea isn’t unusual but we are seeing a significant increase in the frequency of the flights over the last few weeks. American assets are also present.

The British Foreign Secretary has stated that Britain is “ensuring that Ukraine has the capability to defend itself”.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in Parliament:

“In December, I visited British troops forming part of NATO’s enhanced forward presence at Tapa in Estonia, where allies are helping to protect the border with Russia. We are working with our NATO partners to ensure that that protection remains in place and is enhanced so that we can fulfil our commitments.

With Ukraine, we are ensuring that it has the capability to defend itself. That involves training, and the UK has trained more than 20,000 troops in Ukraine. We are also supplying extra capability for naval defences as well as support in areas such as cyber-security and other services.”


 

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Canada deploys special forces to Ukraine amid rising tensions with Russia​


By Alex Boutilier , Mercedes Stephenson & David Baxter Global News
Posted January 17, 2022 2:36 pm | Updated January 18, 2022 5:18 pm

Canadian special forces operators have been deployed to Ukraine amid rising tensions between the NATO military alliance and Russia, Global News has learned.

The deployment of a small contingent from the Canadian Special Operations Regiment comes as diplomatic talks aimed at staving off an armed conflict in Ukraine have faltered, and an estimated 100,000 Russian troops remain camped on Ukraine’s border.

Sources told Global News that the Canadian special operations presence is part of an attempt by NATO allies to deter Russian aggression in Ukraine, and to identify ways to assist the Ukrainian government.

Click to play video: 'Canada stands ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with Ukraine, says Foreign Minister Joly amid tensions with Russia'


Canada stands ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with Ukraine, says Foreign Minister Joly amid tensions with Russia
Canada stands ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with Ukraine, says Foreign Minister Joly amid tensions with Russia
The unit has also been tasked with helping to develop evacuation plans for Canadian diplomatic personnel in the event of a full-scale invasion, sources said.

Neither the government nor the Canadian Forces would officially confirm the special forces presence in Ukraine when contacted by Global News, other than to say special forces operators have been involved in Canada’s broader assistance to Ukraine.

“(The Canadian Special Operations Forces Command) is part of the broader Armed Forces’ efforts to support Ukraine’s Security Forces,” wrote Maj. Amber Bineau, a spokesperson for special operations command, in a statement to Global News.

Bineau noted that Canadian special forces have been providing training, as well as “instructor and leadership expertise,” to Ukrainian counterparts since 2020 — although sources told Global News the latest special forces contingent, which left for Ukraine around Jan. 9, is not conducting training.

Diplomatic talks between the U.S., European allies and Russia ended last week without a clear path to deescalate tensions along the Ukraine-Russia border. Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, called the talks a “dead end.”

In a statement Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said NATO and the U.S. remain committed to a diplomatic solution and urged Russia to scale back its operations on Ukraine’s border. But the U.S. also warned Russia may look for a pretext to invade Ukraine should diplomatic talks falter, including engaging in “false flag” operations to precipitate a conflict.

The Kremlin has denied the U.S. accusations.

Russia has demanded a guarantee that Ukraine will not be permitted to join the NATO alliance — a demand that both U.S. and NATO officials have flatly rejected.

Canada’s foreign minister, Mélanie Joly, departed Sunday for a week-long visit to Kyiv and bilateral meetings to reaffirm Ottawa’s support for Ukrainian sovereignty.

“The amassing of Russian troops and equipment in and around Ukraine jeopardizes security in the entire region,” Joly said in a statement.

“These aggressive actions must be deterred. Canada will work with its international partners to uphold the rules-based international order and preserve the human rights and dignity of Ukrainians.”

Canada has consistently backed Kyiv in its dealings with Russia since Putin annexed Crimea in 2014. According to the Canadian government, Ottawa has committed roughly $700 million in assistance to Ukraine since Jan. 2014, including provision of non-lethal military equipment and sending rotations of 200 Canadian Armed Forces troops every six months to train Ukrainian security forces.

The opposition Conservatives have urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberals to reject Putin’s demands, but instead to “stand shoulder to shoulder” with Ukraine and Canada’s European allies.

Aurel Braun, an international relations professor at the University of Toronto, said in an interview Monday that while Canada’s support does “make a difference,” the West’s central player around the negotiation table is the U.S.

“It depends a great deal what the Americans do,” said Braun, who is also associated with Harvard’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies.

Braun said Canada and its allies need to continue to support Ukraine — not only from a military perspective, but also economically and diplomatically — as Russia’s goal is to isolate Kyiv and present Ukraine as a failed democratic experiment.

“What Mr. Putin fears is a successful Ukraine, because if there would be a successful democratic state emerging on (Russia’s) borders … that would present an alternate vision to the kind of ultra-nationalistic kleptocracy that is running inside Russia itself,” Braun said.

On Friday, Canada’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, Marta Morgan, met with U.S. deputy secretary of state, Wendy Sherman, to pledge “continued close coordination to deter further Russian aggression against Ukraine.”

According to U.S. officials, Morgan also agreed that “further Russian invasion of Ukraine would result in massive consequences and severe costs including coordinated, restrictive economic measures for the Russian Federation.”

 

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Russia-Ukraine crisis: where are Putin’s troops and what are his options?​

by Andrew Roth, David Blood and Niels de Hoog
Fri 17 Dec 2021 05.00 GMT

Why are there tensions?​

Russia has forward-deployed hundreds of tanks, self-propelled artillery and even short-range ballistic missiles from as far away as Siberia to within striking range of Ukraine’s borders. US intelligence has said Russia could launch an offensive by the end of January with as many as 100 battalion tactical groups (BTGs), comprising an estimated 175,000 troops. Current estimates say Russia has about 50 BTGs in the border region, already a significant force that could overrun Ukrainian defensive positions.

Russia’s rhetoric has grown more belligerent. Vladimir Putin has demanded legal guarantees that Ukraine will never join Nato or host its missile strike systems, concessions he is not likely to receive. He is also short on time. His troops cannot remain out of garrison indefinitely. By late winter he will probably have to launch an attack or draw down his forces in what would look like a retreat.

How did we get here?​

In 2014 Putin sent troops to annex Crimea, a mainly Russian-speaking region of Ukraine. Russia also incited a separatist uprising in Ukraine’s south-east, clandestinely sending soldiers and weapons to provoke a conflict that grew into a full-blown war.

A 2015 peace deal established a line of demarcation and called on both sides to make concessions. Since then low-level fighting has continued along the front, and both sides have accused the other of violating the agreement, which observers say is close to collapse.

Russia no longer wants to maintain the status quo and is looking for another way to assert control over Ukraine.

Screenshot 2022-01-20 at 1.42.41 AM.png
What do we know about the deployments?​

Many of the heavy weapons stationed near Ukraine arrived in the spring, when Russia put an estimated 110,000 troops with tanks and other heavy weaponry near the border. Russia returned some, but not all, of its troops to base in May after Putin secured a summit with Joe Biden.

One of the largest forces to remain comes from the 41st Combined Arms Army, which is headquartered in Novosibirsk almost 2,000 miles away. Stationed at the Pogonovo training area south of Voronezh since spring, some of the 41st CAA forces have moved to Yelnya, a town in the Smolensk region closer to Belarus.


Screenshot 2022-01-20 at 1.43.09 AM.png

Equipment reportedly belonging to the 41st CAA near Yelnya on 9 November

Equipment reportedly belonging to the 41st CAA near Yelnya on 9 November. Photograph: Maxar/AFP/Getty Images
The equipment includes motorised infantry, main battle tanks, rocket artillery and Iskander short-range ballistic missiles comprising an estimated six or seven BTGs, according to an estimate by the independent defence analyst Konrad Muzyka.

Tanks, motorised infantry and rocket artillery from the 1st Guards Tank Army headquartered in the Moscow region have been moved to the Pogonovo training area, according to Muzyka’s estimates.

A satellite image taken on 26 November shows Russian troop locations at the Pogonovo training ground in the Voronezh region

A satellite image taken on 26 November shows Russian troop locations at the Pogonovo training ground in the Voronezh region.
Two satellite photos of the Pogonovo training area on 26 November

Two satellite photos of the Pogonovo training area on 26 November. Photograph: Maxar Technologies, AP
Other recent movements show motor rifle brigades from the 49th Combined Arms Army moving towards Crimea. Artillery and air-defence assets from the 58th Combined Arms Army have also been spotted in satellite photographs taken from above Novoozerne in western Crimea.

Equipment from the 58th CAA in Novoozerne on 18 October.

Equipment thought to be from the 58th CAA in Novoozerne on 18 October. Photograph: Maxar Technologies, AP
There are also units permanently deployed near Ukraine from the 8th and 20th Combined Arms Armies. And Ukraine estimates tens of thousands of troops are stationed in the Russian-backed separatist territories of Donetsk and Luhansk.

What form could a Russian attack take?​

A map released by Ukrainian military intelligence in November showed a worst-case scenario: Russian forces crossing the Ukrainian border from the east and attacking from annexed Crimea, as well as launching an amphibious assault on Odessa with support from Russian soldiers in Transnistria and troops sent in from Belarus. Some aspects of the plan, such as offensives from the east and via Crimea, already appear possible. Others, such as an attack from Belarus, appear to factor in troops that have not yet arrived in the region.

Russia could assert dominance with a less extensive operation. The head of Ukraine’s military intelligence service told the New York Times that his nightmare scenario involved airstrikes and rocket attacks on ammunition depots and trenches that could leave the military incapacitated, leaving frontline commanders to fight on alone. They would fall, he said, if Russia launched a full-strength invasion. At that point Russia could seek to strong-arm Kyiv into a disadvantageous peace deal.

Screenshot 2022-01-20 at 1.43.44 AM.png


Other options include sending a “peacekeeping force” or clandestinely deploying troops under the guise of separatist forces to Donetsk and Luhansk. From there they could reinvigorate the fighting along the frontline or seek to capture new territory.

According to the Institute for the Study of War, one option would be to break out from Donetsk to try to establish a land bridge connecting Crimea to territory near Rostov, as well as seizing the Kherson region north of Crimea and securing the North-Crimean Canal. Russia would need to capture Mariupol, a large city that is very well defended, to make this plan work.

The potential economic blowback of any new fighting would be enormous as the US and its allies are promising “significant and severe” sanctions in the event of an attack.

The last option may be the most likely: Russia seeks concessions from the west in negotiations while maintaining its troops along the border for a credible threat of escalation. Putin has said he believes high tensions are useful for Russia and he has already pulled back his troops from Ukraine once this year.

Nevertheless, analysts say that without a clear diplomatic victory, any drawdown could look like a defeat.

What is the role of Nord Stream 2?​

The completion of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea gives both sides an economic weapon. The pipeline would allow Russia to send gas to Europe without going through Ukraine, meaning Moscow could pile pressure on Kyiv without the risk that Kyiv would cut the gas supply route in retaliation. Ukraine has lobbied furiously against the project, saying it undermines its national security.

Screenshot 2022-01-20 at 1.44.03 AM.png


However, the pipeline, which has become a pet project of Putin’s, has not yet come online, and western governments have signalled that in the case of invasion, that may never happen.
 

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  • In 2014, Russia sent 8 battalions to Ukraine. This time around, 100 battalions have been deployed over Ukraine's borders. This is the largest military deployment in Europe since WWII.
  • Russia has about 4 weeks to invade while ice has frozen the ground, which would otherwise be muddy and complicate the logistics of moving armor and troops.
  • The Ukrainian army has 250,000 active troops, 2500 tanks, are quantitatively well-equipped, and battle-hardened from constant skirmishes with Russia.
  • UK and US have been constantly supplying mobile anti-armor and anti-aircraft weapons to Ukraine in the recent weeks to make an invasion painful for Russia.
  • Russia's primary advantage lies in its air force, and electronic warfare. Ukraine has practically no air force. Russia will gain complete air supremacy right at the onset of a war. And Ukraine, with USSR leftovers will quickly find their communications and command be overwhelmed by Russian jammers.
 

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The alternative view is that Ukraine might act first to take back Crimea that was lost to Russia, as the west thinks that Russia does not have the will to act.
USA is training a number of snipers and providing equipment to them. The reason Russia is worried is because the distance from Moscow to Ukrainian border is only 500km, they don't want Ukraine to become part of Nato which would mean western presence very near to Moscow.
 

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My impression is that Putin is a cool customer, he's mobilizing his troops only to show his muscle, in process Russian army has opportunity to check it's preparedness for big war.
US on other hand always invade and violate international boundaries, so they are ever prepared.
 

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Poroshenko has been brought back to take power from Zelenskyy.

This article might interest you regarding what is to come:

we will wait and see, since Zelensky himself is promoting a trial against Poroshenko for allegations of Poroshenko buying coal from the Donetsk People's Republic

right now, as our tensions are hot, Zelensky is really doing the bare minimum to bolster their security near Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luhansk areas, and in fact he's been trying to get NATO to more or less directly get involved (deploy their troops to Ukraine) which most have rejected and are only agreeing to arm, Britain and the US recently supplied NLAWS, Javelins and SMAWs to the Ukrainian army.

while I mention, Zelensky wants to also divert attention from his failures he has implemented and by doing so he is alleging that Poroshenko bought coal from Novorossiya, yet has zero evidence to back his case, and many people, including other Ukrainian officials, believe that Poroshenko is going to walk away from this trial with 0 troubles. the other thing is, next election is in 2024, and Poroshenko has already stated he is indeed running again, against Zelensky.

I do agree however, that Poroshenko is far better due to his staunch nationalism and his major backing for the Ukrainian military, including Ukraine developing and building their own weapons, and Ukrainian soldiers getting tax breaks and some land as appreciation. Poroshenko, in other words actually had a spine and stood tall in regards defending Ukraine, so I give him that much respect. Zelensky on the other hand, just seems like a pushover, if they tell conduct diplomatic talks he will, if they tell him to deploy soldiers he will, Zelensky has absolutely zero experience in politics, and to this day it shocks me anyone voted for him
 

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Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky has called on the West not to create panic amid the build-up of Russian troops on his country's borders.
He told reporters that warnings of an imminent invasion were putting Ukraine's economy at risk.
On Thursday, US President Joe Biden said he believed Russia could attack its neighbour next month.
Russia, however, denies it is planning to invade and on Friday its foreign minister said Moscow did not want war.
While Russia has about 100,000 troops on Ukraine's borders, Mr Zelensky said he did not see a greater threat now than during a similar massing of troops last spring.
"There are signals even from respected leaders of states, they just say that tomorrow there will be war. This is panic - how much does it cost for our state?" he told the press conference in Kyiv.

Mr Zelensky also criticised the UK, US and Australian withdrawal of diplomats' families from Ukraine, saying it had been a mistake.
"The destabilisation of the situation inside the country" is the biggest threat to Ukraine, he said.

The US has rejected a key Moscow demand that Nato rule out Ukraine joining the defence alliance - but insisted it was offering Russia a " serious diplomatic path".
Russian President Vladimir Putin later accused the West of ignoring Russia's security concerns.
But he said he would study the US response before deciding what to do, according to a Kremlin readout of a call between Mr Putin and his French counterpart.
France said the two leaders had agreed on the need to de-escalate and its President Emmanuel Macron told Mr Putin that Russia must respect the sovereignty of its neighbouring states.

'No decision made'​

On Friday, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said Russia had amassed enough military capacity to attack Ukraine.
He said the US was committed to helping Ukraine defend itself, including by providing more weaponry.
"Conflict is not inevitable. There is still time and space for diplomacy," Mr Austin said.
Meanwhile the head of Germany's foreign intelligence service said Russia was prepared to attack Ukraine, but had not yet decided whether to do so.
"I believe that the decision to attack has not yet been made," Bruno Kahl told Reuters.
And Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance was ready to increase its presence in eastern Europe to demonstrate its resolve.

Mr Stoltenberg said Russia was deploying thousands of combat-ready troops and missile systems into Belarus, which also borders Ukraine.
Russia last month made wide-ranging security demands from the West, including that:
  • Ukraine should be barred from joining Nato
  • Nato should end military activity in eastern Europe, pulling troops out of Poland and the Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania
  • The alliance should not deploy missiles in countries near or bordering Russia
The US and Nato responded by saying Ukraine had the right to choose its own allies but offered Russia talks on missile placements and other issues.
If Russia were to invade Ukraine, it would not be the first time.
Russia annexed Ukraine's southern Crimea peninsula in 2014. It is also backing rebels who seized large swathes of the eastern Donbas region soon afterwards, and some 14,000 people have died in fighting there.
 
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