We earlier highlighted the ongoing "theater of the absurd" moment - that the Pentagon is demanding an urgent explanation as to just what Russian troops are doing... on Russia's own soil.
The Kremlin in fresh statements Monday has blasted the continued US and NATO allegations of troop build-up for a planned invasion of Ukraine. This accusation has been circulating in Western press for much of the last month, with the latest coming via Bloomberg on Sunday, which wrote based on US officials, "The U.S. has shared intelligence including maps with European allies that shows a buildup of Russian troops and artillery to prepare for a rapid, large-scale push into Ukraine from multiple locations if President Vladimir Putin decided to invade, according to people familiar with the conversations."
That US briefing was reportedly given to some NATO members as well, and the troop mustering is said to involve 100,000 Russian soldiers in regions near or adjacent to Ukraine, with reservists also being called up.
"The information lays out a scenario where troops would cross into Ukraine from Crimea, the Russian border and via Belarus, with about 100 battalion tactical groups – potentially about 100,000 soldiers – deployed for what the people described as an operation in rough terrain and freezing conditions, covering extensive territory and prepared for a potentially prolonged occupation," Bloomberg details of the US briefing.
The anonymous sources for the report conveyed a huge, albeit dubious claim: "Two of the people said about half that number of tactical groups was already in position and that any invasion would be backed up by air support."
The Kremlin dismissed the fresh allegations as part of a "targeted information campaign" - or Western propaganda aimed at stoking tensions, which are already running high in relation to the Belarus-Poland migrant crisis at the border.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov sad Monday that movements of Russian troops within the country's own sovereign bounders are of no concern to anyone else, as they "don’t present a threat to anyone and shouldn’t raise any concerns," according to a call with reporters.
*If* Russia launched a fresh invasion of Ukraine, the last bit here is key for success: "...covering extensive territory and prepared for a potentially prolonged occupation."— Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) November 21, 2021
Russian forces would meet significant resistance during and after any offensive. https://t.co/GNQcGLLneN pic.twitter.com/XbcgyoER8v
And days ago the Pentagon admitted it didn't actually know "what Putin is up to..."
On Russia's troop buildup near Ukraine: "The truth is, we're not exactly sure what Mr. Putin is up to."— Jared Szuba (@JM_Szuba) November 17, 2021
Defense Secretary Austin says he is in frequent contact with @US_EUCOM commander Gen. Tod Wolters. Austin calls on Russia to be more transparent.
Peskov described that the Russian military is merely engaged in the "usual background level" of military maneuvers - similar to the training drills that ended up generating false reports last April and May of a "planned Ukraine invasion". That prior situation, like the current one, involved Russian troops and weaponry being observed at least 60km from the actual Ukrainian border, and not along it.
During the statement, Peskov actually turned the charges back on NATO, saying, that in Ukraine "The number of provocations has increased significantly and these provocations are conducted using weapons delivered by NATO." He blamed Kiev and its backers for the soaring tensions, calling its own military build-up "alarming" - thus each side appears to be ramping up troop readiness based on accusing the other of a "build-up" of forces.
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And on the news and fresh allegations... RUSSIAN RUBLE EXTENDS DROP; DECLINES 1.8% TO FOUR-MONTH LOW