Russia has amassed more than 94,000 troops at the border of Ukraine and could invade the country by the end of January, the Ukrainian defense minister said Friday.
Oleksii Reznikov said the troops are gathered in Crimea, the peninsula Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, The Associated Press reported. The buildup is stoking fears of an escalation in the years-long war fought between Russian-backed separatists and the government of Ukraine, which has seen more than 14,000 casualties.
Reznikov said an escalation in the war by late January is "a probable scenario, but not certain."
"Our intelligence service analyzes all scenarios, including the worst ones. It notes that a probability of a large-scale escalation on the part of Russia exists," Reznikov said, according to the AP.
Tensions have been growing between the West, including the U.S., and Russia. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned the Kremlin this week of "serious consequences" if it invades Ukraine and triggers a large-scale war.
Blinken met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Thursday in Stockholm, where he pushed for peace and encouraged Moscow to de-escalate in the region.
"The United States supports a diplomatic resolution to the conflict in the Donbas and urges Russia to fulfill its commitments under the Minsk agreements," he wrote on Twitter, referring to an agreement signed by Ukraine and Russia in 2014 to stop fighting in eastern Russia, which has largely been ignored.
I spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov today about Russia's aggression towards Ukraine. The United States supports a diplomatic resolution to the conflict in the Donbas and urges Russia to fulfill its commitments under the Minsk agreements. pic.twitter.com/RbSK3EaRJB
- Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) December 2, 2021
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley did not rule out Thursday if the U.S., which has supplied arms and supplies to Ukraine in the war, would get further involved in the event of a Russian invasion.
"There's significant national security interests of the United States and of NATO member states at stake here if there was an overt act of aggressive action militarily by the Russians into a nation state that has been independent since 1991," Milley told Reuters.
Ukraine, meanwhile, is preparing for a potential war.
Today, the EU Council decided to provide Ukraine with €31 million to increase overall resilience and strengthen the capabilities of the Armed Forces.Symbolically,today I had a meeting with a great friend of @MattiMaasikas.We discussed the priority areas of UA-EU cooperation pic.twitter.com/hlYKBwTV4B
- Oleksii Reznikov (@oleksiireznikov) December 2, 2021