Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 02.01.2019
Ukraine’s 30-day state of martial law has ended but the threat of a military offensive by the Russian Federation hasn’t. By the start of 2019, the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation have increased troops levels near the borders and “lines of control” of Ukraine to nearly 100,000. These Russian soldiers are not for defence but poised to attack Ukraine.
The press service of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine reports that 28 Russian army battalion-scale tactical groups are now in the Russian Federation near the international border with Ukraine and also on Ukraine’s territory of Crimea which is temporarily occupied by the Russian Federation. The total number of service members of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in these areas is estimated to be around 53,000.
The Russian Federation’s invasion-occupation force in Donbas in eastern Ukraine is made up of Russian regular troops, mercenaries, contract soldiers from private military companies, and local auxiliaries. Ukrainian military intelligence estimates as many as 45,000 combatants loyal to the Russian Federation are in Donbas, with about 11,000 of that number made up of Russian regular troops. There are known to be over 1,000 military vehicles in the Russian occupied zone of Donbas, amongst which are more tanks than Germany, France and the United Kingdom combined possess.
Ukrainian Defence Minister Stepan Poltorak presented the information that the Russian Federation has deployed a powerful military force adjacent to Ukrainian international borders and Ukrainian administrative boundaries with Crimea and part of Donbas. It is Minister Poltarak’s belief that this is a sign that the Russian Federation is not giving up on its attempts to seize all of Ukraine.
Russian forces attacked three Ukrainian Navy vessels on 25 November 2018. The Russians rammed the boats as they were attempting a peaceful and normal passage from Odesa, Ukraine to Mariupol, Ukraine through the Kerch Strait. The Russian Federation committed this act of war without warning and for no reason. The three Ukrainian Navy boats were pirated by the Russians, and 24 Ukrainian Navy sailors were taken hostage.
After this open act of war, Ukraine adopted a war state legal regime in 10 oblasts (regions) adjacent to the Russian aggressors, to last for 30 days. Martial law allowed Ukraine to carry out a partial mobilization, test its readiness to face a wider war, and take measures to deter the anticipated Russian offensive.
The 30-day period of the war state legal framework has expired, martial law has ended, and no Russian offensive has taken place. But the danger from the Russian aggressor remains. Kremlin anti-Ukrainian hate propaganda has reached a frenzied level not seen since the 2014-15 peak of fighting in the initial Russian invasion of Ukraine. Fake news like predicting a “Ukrainian chemical attack” is spread by Kremlin information warriors and amplified by social media and inattentive Western news media. The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation are staging large numbers of troops and equipment suitable for offensive close to the borders of Ukraine.
53,000 Russian soldiers are near the Ukraine-Russian Federation border and in Crimea, Ukraine (Russian-occupied) ready to launch an offensive. As many as 45,000 more are in Donbas, Ukraine (Russian-occupied) along with a formidable tank army. The Russians will try to make a “provocation” out of any event to spark a large military offensive against Ukraine whose objective will be to annihilate the country. The Putin regime does not care if this “provocation” is the granting of a tomos of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine or the conduct of presidential elections in Ukraine or something unanticipated. What is certain is that the Russian Federation is ready to launch an offensive against Ukraine and Putin will “pull the trigger” on a massive invasion if he believes other Western democracies will not come to the defence of Ukraine.