The Pentagon has identified eight staging areas in Russia where large numbers of military forces appear to be preparing for incursions into Ukraine, according to U.S. defense officials.
As many as 40,000 Russian troops, including tanks, armored vehicles, and air force units, are now arrayed along Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia.
Additionally, large numbers of Russian military forces will conduct exercises in the coming days that Pentagon officials say could be used as cover for an attack on Ukraine.
“Russian units will likely practice reinforcing the [Crimean] peninsula through such activities as amphibious landings and air defense exercises, and this may involve the change out of equipment and long convoys of military vehicles,” one defense official said.
The military exercises are an ominous sign. Similar large-scale Russian exercises were conducted near Ukraine a month before Moscow carried out the covert military operation to take over the strategic Black Sea peninsula in March 2014.
Navy Capt. Danny Hernandez, a spokesman for the U.S. European Command, told the Washington Free Beacon that the upcoming Russian exercises are being closely monitored.
“We are extremely concerned about the increased tensions near the administrative boundary between Crimea and the rest of Ukraine,” Hernandez said. “We urge both sides to avoid provocative steps or rhetoric that could escalate the situation.”
Read More: Russian Military Forces Staging Near Ukraine