Ukraine reacts to fears of Russian invasion as troops build up at the border

The Ukrainian president has been on the frontline as tension with Russia builds, as ITV News Global Security Editor Rohit Kachroo reports

The build-up of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine has sparked fears that Russia is preparing to invade the country.

The numbers and types of troops seem, to many experts, to have gone beyond those needed for exercises. There are even field hospitals in place.

About 70,000 troops have massed near the border, according to US intelligence officials, who also determined that Russia is planning a possible invasion as soon as early next year.

Satellite images from November 9 show a buildup of troops and tents in the Russian town of Yelnya, 260km north of the Ukrainian border. Credit: Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies

But Moscow has denied it plans to attack Ukraine, saying the concerns are part of efforts to smear Russia.

Putin has urged the west to exclude Ukraine from joining NATO and the deployment of the alliance’s weapons on its territory.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Monday his forces are capable of fending off a potential attack amid concerns by officials in his own country and in the west.

He praised the country’s army as a “highly capable and highly organised force that is confident in its potential and is able to derail any expansionist plans by the enemy.”

He continued: “Ukrainian servicemen are continuing to perform their most important mission — to protect the freedom and sovereignty of the state from the Russian aggressor,” said Zelenskyy, who donned combat fatigues on a visit to troops near the area of a separatist conflict in the country’s east."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, right, awards a soldier in a trench as he visits the war-hit Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine Credit: Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP

NATO leaders and ministers met virtually on Monday evening to decide how to respond.

On Tuesday, Russian President Putin and American President Biden are expected to discuss the issue in a scheduled video call.

Ukraine's conflict with Russia-backed rebels in its eastern industrial heartland erupted weeks after Moscow’s 2014 takeover of the Crimean Peninsula.

Satellite images from October 18, 2021 also show deployments in Novoozernoye in Crimea. Credit: Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies

The fighting has killed more than 14,000 people, and efforts to negotiate a settlement have stalled.

A Downing Street spokesperson said on Monday evening: “The Prime Minister spoke to President Biden, Prime Minister Draghi, President Macron and Chancellor Merkel this evening about the Ukraine.

“The leaders agreed that recent meetings of the G20 and of NATO Foreign Ministers had been useful forums for discussions on this issue. They emphasised the need to provide a united front in the face of Russian threats and hostility.

“The leaders called on Russia to de-escalate tensions and reaffirmed their staunch support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

“The Prime Minister reiterated the points he made to President Putin when they spoke earlier this year in this regard, and which the Foreign Secretary also made to her Russian counterpart last week. The Prime Minister said the UK would continue to use all the economic and diplomatic tools at its disposal to prevent any Russian aggression against Ukraine.

“The leaders agreed to speak again following President Biden’s conversation with President Putin tomorrow.”