After four years of war, Russia has at least 260,000 troops deployed along the Ukrainian border, in addition to another 35,000 troops in the Donbas and 30,000 in Crimea, who could be used to conduct a large-scale continental war, the chairman of Ukraine’s National Defense and Security Council Oleksandr Turchynov said at the Kyiv Security Forum on April 13.
According to the Ukrainian official, the Russian troops in Crimea and Donbas would be the spearhead force if the Kremlin decided to push westward.
“The Russian aggressor is preparing a powerful force in Crimea – and not only to protect its presence there,” Turchynov said. “And the two occupation army corps in the Donbas have been positioned to provide cover and buy time for the main force to deploy at the borderline.”
Right now, he said, the 260,000 Russian troops near Ukrainian border are ready to advance with 3,500 tanks, 11,000 soft-skin vehicles, 4,000 artillery units, and over 1,000 multiple launch rocket systems.
According to Tuchynov, Russia has also fielded four guided-missile brigades in the region, armed with Iskander-K cruise missile systems, which have a range of up to 2,500 kilometers.
“This is nothing but a blatant withdrawal from the treaty on the elimination of intermediate- and short-range missiles,” he said, referring to the INF Treaty on the elimination of all cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500-5500 kilometers, which was signed by the United States and the Soviet Union in 1987.
“Russia’s withdrawal from the agreement is a real menace to all European countries.”
In late January, Turchynov presented a prototype of Ukraine’s new cruise missile, the Neptun, reportedly intended to deliver precise strikes on ground- and seaborne targets.
However, Turchynov said at the forum that in upgrading its arsenal of cruise missiles Ukraine is not exceeding the 500-kilometer restriction on missile ranges.
Apart from investing in conventional arms, Russia is also enhancing its hybrid warfare capabilities, “including terror attacks and subversive actions,” in Ukraine, Turchynov said.
He thanked Western nations for imposing sanctions on Russia in response to its aggression, adding that the punitive measures upon Kremlin were “not a present (for Ukraine), but rather a basic defense for Europe against a hostile Russia.”
“As of now, we have to rely on our own force,” he said. “But we are open to and seeking partnerships.”
The Kyiv Security Forum is held by the Open Ukraine Fund, headed by former Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. Held every year since 2007, this year it drew over 400 international and Ukrainian leaders, businesspeople, and civil society representatives, among them the U.S.’s representative to NATO.
The forum discussed global security trends, as well as Ukraine’s crucial role in bolstering regional and European security and democracy.