Sabre-rattling or preparations for war? Since mid-March, there have been many warnings from Ukraine and Western governments that Russia is massing troops in Russian-annexed Crimea and around the eastern Ukraine conflict zone.
Russia’s intentions are far from clear, but here’s a quick guide to the latest developments.
Is Russia preparing to invade Ukraine?
Multiple sources have reported large Russian military movements towards the eastern Ukraine border and into Crimea, which Russian forces annexed from Ukraine in March 2014. Many of these reports have appeared on Twitter, such as a Jane’s intelligence analyst’s tweets about Iskander short-range missiles.
The Kremlin has not given details about the units involved. President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said moving troops across Russian territory was an “internal affair” which should not concern anyone. Some of the troops, including units in Crimea, have been on exercises. But Mr Peskov also accused Ukraine of staging “provocations”.
Ukrainian intelligence sources told the BBC that the extra forces amount to 16 battalion tactical groups, which would be up to 14,000 soldiers. In total, according to the Ukrainian presidency, Russia now has about 40,000 on the eastern border and about 40,000 in Crimea.
So is this an invasion force? It could be, but analysts say a big invasion is unlikely. Infiltration would be more Russia’s tried and trusted method. Russian special forces without insignia – nicknamed “little green men” – took over Crimea in 2014.Ukraine, Nato and Western governments say Russia also has regular units and heavy weapons in separatist-held eastern Ukraine. The Kremlin denies that and calls any Russian troops there “volunteers”.