US: Russia Just Added 7K Troops

NATO secretary-general says there's been no sign of de-escalation at Ukraine border
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 16, 2022 7:58 AM CST
Updated Feb 16, 2022 7:10 PM CST
NATO on Russian De-escalation: Not Happening
In this photo taken from video provided by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022, Russian army tanks are loaded onto railway platforms, supposedly to move back to their permanent base after drills in Russia.   (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

Update: This file has been updated with US reports of Russia deploying more troops. Russia's de-escalation at Ukraine's border? It's not happening, says NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. "We have not seen any de-escalation on the ground. On the contrary, it appears that Russia continues its military buildup," Stoltenberg said Wednesday, the day the Wall Street Journal points out had been flagged by some US intelligence members as the likeliest day for a Russian invasion. Russia's Defense Ministry was singing a different tune, and on Wednesday released a video in which a trainload of armored vehicles were transported across a bridge away from Crimea, reports the AP. Stoltenberg wasn't convinced, saying Russia has "always moved forces back and forth," so footage like that "does not confirm a real withdrawal," per CNBC.

On Wednesday evening, a senior US official put a number on that recent buildup: 7,000 Russian troops, per CNN, calling the Russians' claims of pulling back untrue. "Every indication we have now is they mean only to publicly offer to talk, and make claims about de-escalation, while privately mobilizing for war," the official said. The US estimate of the Russian force before this escalation was about 150,000 troops positioned to the north, east, and south of Ukraine, per the AP.

A day earlier, the UK's Boris Johnson had said "the intelligence we’re seeing today is still not encouraging. ... We've got Russian field hospitals being constructed near the border with Ukraine in Belarus, which can only be construed as preparation for an invasion. So mixed signals, I think, at the moment." Asked by a German daily if Russia planned to attack Wednesday, Russia's ambassador to the EU shot back, "Wars in Europe rarely start on a Wednesday." Still, in what the AP terms "a show of resolve," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky deemed Wednesday a "day of national unity," saying to the people, "We are united by a desire to happily live in peace. We can defend our home only if we stay united.” (More Russia stories.)

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