What is Russia doing? Yesterday evening, the Ukrainian president went on live television to announce that he had intelligence indicating that Russia would invade on Wednesday. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy instructed that Wednesday be a national unity day in anticipation of the Russian invasion.
“Today they are scaring Ukraine with a great war and, once again, are setting the date for a military invasion, but our state is stronger than ever,” Zelenskyy said.
However, on Tuesday morning, Moscow announced that some of its troops on the border with Ukraine are withdrawing back to their bases.
Russia: De-Escalation or the Final Act?
The Russian Ministry of Defense announced that some of the troops participating in large-scale exercises—the pretext for positioning them close to Ukraine all along—were finishing up their drills and moving back to their bases.
“As combat training measures are coming to a close, the troops, as is always the case, will conduct combined marches to their permanent garrisons. Units of the Southern and Western Military Districts that have accomplished their tasks have already begun loading personnel and equipment on railway and auto transport means and will today begin heading to their military garrisons,” Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said in a press statement.
In his joint statements with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Russian President Vladimir Putin mocked Ukrainian and U.S. warnings about an imminent invasion on Wednesday.
However, open-source reporting on Tuesday morning indicated that Russian troops were still moving in the region. Moreover, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that the transatlantic alliance has still to see any real de-escalation.
“On Russian statements regarding withdrawal of some forces from the Ukrainian border. We in Ukraine have a rule: we don’t believe what we hear, we believe what we see. If a real withdrawal follows these statements, we will believe in the beginning of a real de-escalation,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Tuesday morning.
Russia Still Has a Potent Invasion Force Ready to Strike
According to U.S. intelligence reports, Moscow has positioned near Ukraine all the necessary manpower and materiel to launch an invasion. More specifically, the Russian military has approximately 105 battalion tactical groups, up from 83 only a few days ago, 500 fighter, attack, and bomber aircraft, and 40 warships in the vicinity. (It is also worth noting that the total battalion tactical groups in the Russian military are approximately 150. So, the current units positioned near Ukraine amount to close to 70 percent of the entire ground tactical forces of the entire Russian military).
Thus far, Russia has been citing large-scale military maneuvers in Western Russia and Belarus to justify the number of troops and materiel in the region.
And we aren’t talking just about troops, tanks, and aircraft. Moscow has pre-positioned the logistical and support functions, such as field hospitals and blood supplies, that would be required in an actual invasion. If that was also part of the feint, it remains to be seen.
1945’s New Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.