Satellite images released over the weekend by Maxar Technologies show Russian and Belarusian forces now positioned only about 30 miles from Ukrainian soil. The images show troops deployed at three locations, armed with missiles, multiple rocket launchers and attack aircraft.
As CBS News foreign correspondent Imtiaz Tyab reports, the U.S. and its European allies have issued increasingly dire warnings that the imagery and other intelligence indicates Russia could invade Ukraine any day.
Moscow insists it has no plans to do so and accuses the West of stoking the tension on the far eastern border of Europe. Russian officials point to NATO’s own buildup of forces in the region and accuse the U.S. of ignoring the Kremlin’s demands for “security guarantees” from the transatlantic military alliance.
Over the last 24 hours, dozens of elite American airborne troops arrived in Poland — part of efforts to bolster NATO’s defenses. It was just the latest influx of U.S. troops and military hardware to the region.
As NATO and Russia trade blame and gather their respective forces, Ukraine is caught in the middle.
Tyab met a group of civilians training near Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv to use automatic weapons. They’re not soldiers, but they’re using real guns and real bullets to prepare for a possible war with a very real adversary.
Whether Russia will actually invade is still anyone’s guess, but those who came to get trained up were preparing for the worst, and they were being taught by people who already have experience in the fight.
Military veterans who’ve spent years fighting pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine have been instructing the urban fighters-in-the-making.
Tyab asked a Ukrainian sergeant leading one of the training sessions if it was terrifying to have so many Russian forces and so much Russian weaponry right on his country’s doorstep.
“It’s not too terrifying for us, because we fight already for eight years, you know? War every day, from 2014,” he replied, referring to the last time Putin sent troops over Ukraine’s border, unilaterally annexing the Crimean Peninsula in the process.
U.S. intelligence officials have warned that a Russian invasion could result in up to 100,000 civilian deaths. But many Ukrainians remain unconvinced that Putin will attack.
On newscasts across Ukraine, there’s barely a mention of the tension along the country’s borders. Instead, the top stories over the last day or so have been about a supermarket scandal, and Ukraine’s fashion week.
“I don’t believe in big invasion right now. It’s actually not in the interest of Putin,” former Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin told CBS News. “What Putin needs now is to raise the stakes, to ratchet up pressure.”
That, he has done, and the pressure has brought a flurry of international diplomacy as world leaders seek an end to the conflict that doesn’t involve bloodshed.
French President Emmanuel Macron was meeting Putin in Moscow on Monday. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov played down hopes of any major breakthrough ahead of the sit-down, calling the standoff “too complicated to expect any decisive changes in the course of one meeting.”
But noting that France currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, Peskov called it a “very important meeting,” and urged the world to wait and see how both Macron and Putin assessed it.
In Washington, meanwhile, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was to sit down with President Joe Biden at the White House, before heading straight back to Berlin to confer with Macron and Poland’s leader on Tuesday.