The Wall Street Journal reports: Russian troops massing near Ukraine are actively concealing their positions and establishing supply lines that could be used in a prolonged deployment, ratcheting up concerns that Moscow is preparing for another major incursion and not conducting exercises as it claims, U.S. officials said.
Such an incursion could take place without warning because Russia has already deployed the array of military forces needed for such an operation, say officials briefed on the latest U.S. intelligence.
The rapid speed of the Russian military buildup and efforts to camouflage the forces and equipment have stoked U.S. fears, in part because American intelligence agencies have struggled to assess Russian President Vladimir Putin’s specific intentions.
The troop movements and the concealment—involving covering up equipment along the border—suggest Mr. Putin is positioning forces in the event he decides to quickly expand his takeover of the Crimea peninsula by seizing more Ukrainian territory, despite Western threats of tighter sanctions.
Still unknown, however, is Mr. Putin’s plan, or whether he has one. [Continue reading…]
Meanwhile, Reuters reports: Ukraine’s deposed president Viktor Yanukovich called on Friday for each of the country’s regions to hold a referendum on its status within Ukraine, instead of presidential elections planed for May 25, Russia’s state Itar-Tass news agency reported.
“As a president who is with you with all my thoughts and soul, I urge every sensible citizen of Ukraine: Don’t give in to impostors! Demand a referendum on the status of each region within Ukraine,” Yanukovich, who fled to Russia last month, was quoted as saying in an address to the people of Ukraine.
His comments, after Moscow annexed Crimea following a referendum there in favour of joining Russia this month, echo Russia’s call for Kiev’s new leaders to enact nationwide constitutional reforms that may grant broader powers to the country’s regions.