Ukraine and Russia have long had an uneasy relationship after Moscow annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014. But, in recent weeks, violence between Russian-backed Crimean separatists and Ukrainian troops has broken out. Moscow has sent thousands of troops near the border.
Pavel Felgenhauer, a veteran Russian defence analyst, appeared on Ekho Moscow radio to suggest the Russian President may have ordered the movement of “more than half a million” troops involving forces from the Pacific to the Baltic.
When asked by the broadcaster whether Russia was “on the doorstep of war”, he replied: “Practically, we are.”
He then added: “An unprecedented mobilisation of the Russian armed forces is taking place.
“All the armed forces. This has not happened either since 1973, or since 1962. Total mobilisation. All armed forces .
“The exact number of people participating is not officially indicated. Apparently more than half a million.”
Mr Felgenhauer also stressed the movement of troops takes place during the day in order to show the US that Russia is “fully mobilised” and “in full combat readiness”.
He told Ekho Moscow radio: “Because if we start something with Ukraine, the Americans said that they would support it, then we are ready to go to war with America at any moment.”
The analyst also said Russia is preparing a “deep operation for the total defeat of the Ukrainian Armed Forces” via a series of strikes from Voronezh, Bryansk, and Belgorod.
He added: “This does not mean that it will necessarily begin. But the preparation is serious.”
It comes after a Ukrainian Government report, obtained by the Daily Mail, showed Kyiv fears Russia will send up to 30,000 extra soldiers, accompanied by more tanks and rocket systems.
The figures, based on intelligence intercepts and satellite photographs, suggested a massive increase to support the near 80,000 Russian troops already awaiting orders to advance into Ukraine.
The report, from the Ukrainian defence ministry and entitled ‘RUS troops massing around UKR’, says: “By the end of April 2021, Russians are going to deploy up to 26 BTGs (Battalion Tactical Groups), several artillery tactical groups, air defence units, reconnaissance units and 4 Special Operations Forces detachments.
“The total amount estimated to be 54 BTGs, up to 107,000 troops, up to 1,300 tanks, 3,700 armoured vehicles, up to 1,300 artillery systems and mortars and up to 380 multi-launch rocket systems.”
On Tuesday, Russian state TV showed two missile ships, the Graivoron and the Vyshny Volochek, taking part in sea-level and aerial target practice alongside a missile hovercraft, a frigate and a mine-sweeping ship in the Black Sea.
Moscow has insisted it is carrying out regular military drills and does not want to invade Ukraine, but has said it “will not remain indifferent” on the lives of Russian-speaking residents of Crimea.
Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed separatists have been fighting in the east of the country since shortly after Moscow’s 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.
In recent weeks, fighting has intensified between the army and separatists in Ukraine’s east.
Separatists, believed to be backed by the Russian military, have fired artillery at eastern Ukraine homes.
In response to the military movement and tensions between Russia and Ukraine, the US has warned Mr Putin against an all-out conflict.
US President Joe Biden has demanded a summit with the Russian leader over the conflict, and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has warned Moscow of consequences should they act “recklessly”.
The USS Donald Cook and the USS Roosevelt will also be deployed in the Black Sea soon.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in response: “There is absolutely nothing for American ships to be doing near our shores, this is purely a provocative action.
“If there is any aggravation we will do everything to ensure our security and safety.
“But Kiev and its allies in the West will be entirely responsible for the consequences.”