Ukraine’s leaders have made it known that they want Washington to impose new biting sanctions on Russia even before any military offensive materializes. And at a moment that it appears Russia, the US, and NATO are actually ready to enter negotiations on ‘security guarantees’ related to NATO expansion, it appears Kiev is willing to do whatever it takes to conduct some muscle-flexing, possibly toward derailing the potential for January de-escalation talks.
In what seems its most provocative move thus far, “Ukrainian military forces have conducted combat drills with U.S.-made Javelin anti-tank missiles in a conflict area with separatists in eastern Ukraine as tensions run high with Russia, Ukrainian Dom television channel said on Wednesday,” Reuters reports.
It should be remembered that Ukraine’s receiving the Javelin missile since at least 2018 has already been a source of outrage among Moscow officials. Kiev is justifying the exercises as necessary in the face of ‘Russian aggression‘ – given the widespread reports of some 70,000 to 90,000 Russian troops mustered across the border.
Recent reports have suggested that Ukrainian national forces have in past months used the US-supplied javelins in combat with pro-Russian separatist forces in the Donbass region.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky and his top officials have charged that the Kremlin is readying a military invasion of Eastern Ukraine by the end of January, something firmly denied by Putin.
Interfax, meanwhile, confirmed that Russia’s military held its own drills in the region on Wednesday:
Russia held its own military drills nearby, the Interfax news agency reported on Wednesday. SU-30 fighter jets and SU-24 bombers from the Black Sea Fleet did aerial refuelling exercises over Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
“The flights were conducted in the sky over Crimea,” Interfax quoted Russia’s Black Sea Fleet as saying. Around 20 pilots practised complex flight tasks, it said, which included mid-air refuelling at altitudes ranging from 2,000 to 6,000 meters at speeds of around 600 km/h.
Also on Wednesday, Ukraine’s Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Oleksiy Danilov revised numbers upward regarding Russian troop estimates Kiev believes are stationed near the border. He stated that 122,000 Russian troops remain within 200 km (124 miles) from Ukraine’s border.
“As regards the number of troops directly. Today, what we see is 122,000 located at a distance of 200 km and 143,500 soldiers of the Russian Federation are at a distance of 400 km in this radius from our border,” Danilov said.
And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not get alarmed (troubled and frightened); it is necessary [that these things] take place, but the end is not yet.
For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines and calamities. This is but the beginning of the intolerable anguish and suffering [only the first of the birth pangs]. (Mark 13:7-8 Amplified Bible, Classic Edition)