POWDER KEG: Russia puts 80,000 troops outside Ukraine

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Mr. Parubiy also predicted that Russia will try to destabilize Ukraine ahead of the presidential election in May.

“Their task is to show that the Ukrainian government is illegitimate,” Mr. Parubiy said through a translator, speaking in Kiev in a live webcast interview hosted by the Atlantic Council in Washington.

Russia orchestrated a slow-rolling annexation of Crimea this month, drawing protests from Mr. Obama and other world leaders. Still, the international community has no obvious levers to reverse the land grab, and Mr. Obama signaled as much during his trip to Europe.

Mr. Putin asserted in a speech last week that Russia had violated no international laws by moving to absorb Crimea, and called on Ukrainians to “not believe those who want you to fear Russia, shouting that other regions will follow Crimea.

“We do not want to divide Ukraine; we do not need that,” the Russian president said.

But U.S. lawmakers say their immediate goal is to prevent further Russian encroachment into Ukraine. The troops amassing along the border have stoked those worries.

Previous assessments estimated 30,000 troops on the border, conducting what Moscow called training exercises. But Pentagon officials told senior Republicans this week that as many as 80,000 troops may be stationed at the border.

Congressional sources said the assessment was bolstered Thursday morning during a classified briefing given to a select group of lawmakers by Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, the supreme allied commander of NATO forces in Europe and head of the Pentagon’s European Command.

Republicans have called for the U.S. to stiffen its own military posture in the region.

Intelligence community sources said they take the potential threat of a Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine seriously.

The crisis was ignited last month after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, facing massive protests, fled the country and an interim government formed.

Moscow said it feared for the safety of Russian-speaking residents in Crimea, a region of Ukraine, and helped orchestrate an independence vote there. After that successful vote, Russia annexed Crimea.

The U.N. General Assembly’s vote Thursday declared the independence referendum and Russian annexation invalid. The 100-11 vote, with 58 countries abstaining, is nonbinding, but Ukrainian officials said it showed Russia is isolated.

Maggie Ybarra contributed to this report.

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About the Author
Guy Taylor

Guy Taylor

Guy Taylor is the National Security Team Leader at The Washington Times, overseeing the paper’s State Department, Pentagon and intelligence community coverage. He’s also a frequent guest on The McLaughlin Group and C-SPAN.

His series on political, economic and security developments in Mexico won a 2012 Virginia Press Association award.

Prior to rejoining The Times in 2011, his work was ...

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