Increased military activity follows weeks of rising tensions that have increased the risk of war.
Russia has conducted military exercises in the Black Sea, south of Ukraine, and said it should step up the combat readiness of its conventional and nuclear forces due to increased NATO activity near its borders.
Ukraine, which told its ally the United States he believes Russia can prepare an invasion, staged exercises of its own near the border with Belarus.
The increase in military activity on both sides follows weeks of rising tensions that have increased the risk of war between the two neighbors, although Russia denies aggressive intent and Western intelligence sources told the Reuters news agency they see no invasion as imminent.
The US and NATO indicated their support for Ukraine in ways that Moscow considered provocative, including by warship maneuvers this month in the Black Sea and a delivery of U.S. patrol boats to the Ukrainian navy.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told Reuters on Wednesday that it would be “a serious mistake on Russia’s part” to attack Ukraine.
Russian fighter jets and ships were training during military exercises in the Black Sea on Wednesday to repel airstrikes on naval bases and to respond with airstrikes, the Interfax news agency reported.
Separately, the news agency quoted Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu as saying that the need for Russia to further develop its armed forces was determined by “the complex military and political conditions in the world and the growing activity of NATO countries near Russia’s. border ”.
He said increasing the capabilities of the armed forces, supporting the combat readiness of nuclear forces and strengthening the potential for non-nuclear deterrence were among the priorities.
Shoigu on Tuesday complained that U.S. bombers carried out a nuclear attack on Russia from two different directions earlier this month and complained that the planes came too close to the Russian border, the Pentagon said exercises that complied with international protocols.
Ukrainian ‘special operation’
Ukraine on Wednesday held what it called a “special operation” at the border with Belarus, including drone drills and military exercises for tank and air-conditioning units.
It has deployed 8,500 extra troops to its border with Belarus, saying it is afraid of being drawn into the migrant crisis, which has led the European Union to accuse Minsk of flying in people from the Middle East and they pushed to enter neighboring Poland. Belarus denies any involvement in the crisis.
Kiev is also worried that the border with Belarus, a close Russian ally, could be used by Russia to stage a military attack.
The head of Ukraine’s military intelligence told the Military Times outlet over the weekend that Russia had assembled more than 92,000 troops around Ukraine’s borders and was preparing for an attack by the end of January or the beginning of February.
Moscow has dismissed such proposals as inflammatory, saying it is not threatening anyone and defending its right to deploy its troops as it pleases.
Intelligence sources, diplomats and analysts say Moscow may be using the escalation of tensions with Ukraine as part of a broader strategy to exert pressure in Europe, including by supporting Belarus in the migrant crisis and using its influence as the continent’s top gas supplier to to urge rapid regulatory approval of its new Nord Stream 2 pipeline to Germany.
“It feels … more like another piece of coercive leverage that the Russians are accumulating on this strategic situation in Eastern Europe,” said Samir Puri, a senior fellow in hybrid warfare at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
“It could very well have value in that alone, rather than being followed by a full-scale invasion that would be politically disastrous for Putin.”