KYIV, Ukraine — On the 30th anniversary of the founding of Ukraine’s armed forces this week, the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, donned a helmet and flak jacket to tour the trenches and announced with great fanfare the delivery of new tanks, armored vehicles and ships to frontline units engaged in fighting Russian forces and Kremlin-backed separatists.
While the weapons systems may help to maintain parity in the slow-moving war of attrition that has prevailed for years, neither they nor anything else the Ukrainian military can now muster would be sufficient to repel the full-on Russian assault that Ukrainian and Western officials say Moscow appears to be preparing. With nearly 100,000 troops now massed across Ukraine’s eastern, northern and southern borders and more on the way, even the Ukrainian officials responsible for their country’s defense acknowledge that without a significant influx of resources, their forces do not stand much of a chance.
“Unfortunately, Ukraine needs to be objective at this stage,” said Gen. Kyrylo O. Budanov, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence service. “There are not sufficient military resources for repelling a full-scale attack by Russia if it begins without the support of Western forces.”
General Budanov outlined his nightmare vision of a Russian invasion that would begin with airstrikes and rocket attacks aimed initially at ammunition depots and trench-bound troops. Very quickly, he said, the Ukrainian military would be incapacitated, its leadership unable to coordinate a defense and supply the front. After that, he said, responsibility would fall to frontline commanders to carry on the fight alone.
a video call with President Biden on Tuesday, Mr. Putin dismissed concerns about the troop buildup on Ukraine’s border, shifting blame to the United States and NATO, which he accused of threatening Russia’s security by supporting Ukraine’s military with arms and training.
“The Russian troops are on their own territory,” an adviser to Mr. Putin, Yuri V. Ushakov, said in a briefing with reporters after the presidents had spoken. “They don’t threaten anyone.”
Still, the amassing of troops and heavy weaponry on the border has forced Ukrainian officials to face some hard truths in recent weeks. The U.S. intelligence community has assessed that Russia has devised plans for an offensive involving 175,000 troops.
delivered about 88 tons of ammunition, part of a $60 million military aid package pledged by the Biden administration.
On Wednesday, President Biden ruled out deploying U.S. forces to Ukraine to deter Russia. But there are more than 150 U.S. military advisers in Ukraine, a combination of U.S. Special Forces and National Guard, currently the Florida National Guard’s 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, according to two U.S. Defense Department officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive troop deployments. About a dozen other NATO countries also have military advisers in Ukraine now, the officials said.
delivering a new cache of missiles in October. John F. Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said Wednesday that there were no conditions or restrictions placed on the Javelins, except that the Ukrainian forces use them “responsibly” and “in self-defense.”
interview with Radio Liberty this month, Gen. Oleksandr Pavlyuk, the commander of the Joint Operation Forces fighting the separatists, said the Javelins had already been deployed to military units in eastern Ukraine. A senior Ukrainian military official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive military issues, confirmed that Javelin missiles had been deployed to frontline military units a month ago, but had not yet been fired in battle.
“The Javelins are there, and if our enemies employ tanks they will be used,” the official said.
The Biden administration has remained vague about how else it might come to Ukraine’s defense in case of invasion.
Understand the Escalating Tensions Over Ukraine
In his video call with Mr. Putin on Tuesday, President Biden looked his counterpart in the eye and warned the United States would go beyond the economic punishments imposed on Russia after the 2014 seizure of Crimea should Mr. Putin decide to order military action, according to an account by Jake Sullivan, the president’s national security adviser. What those penalties might be were left unclear, though few expect the United States to commit significant military assistance beyond what has already been provided.
The lack of firm commitments from Ukraine’s Western backers are a source of consternation for Ukrainian officials.
“They need to decide, either we’re allies as they declare — and in that case allies help one another — or they need to say that this is not exactly the case,” said General Budanov, the military intelligence chief. “If the civilized world wants to avoid catastrophe — and this will be a catastrophe for everyone — we need military technical support now, not tomorrow, not the day after tomorrow, not in year. Now.”
Those who understand that such a level of support is unlikely have begun to speak darkly of popular armed resistance against any Russian occupation. In an interview, General Pavlyuk noted that Ukraine had up to half a million people with military experience. If the West does not come to Ukraine’s aid, he said, “we’ll start a partisan war.”
“Eight years have passed and there are very many people with military experience who are prepared with weapons in their hands to fight,” he said.
One senior Ukrainian military official who spoke on condition of anonymity said that if all else failed, the military would simply open its weapons depots and allow the Ukrainian people to take whatever they need to defend themselves and their families.
Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Washington.
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KYIV, Ukraine — Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken told Ukraine’s president on Thursday that the United States strongly backed his country’s sovereignty against Russia’s military aggression but also warned that the embattled country was under threat from “internal forces,” including powerful oligarchs who thrive on corruption.
Mr. Blinken also said that, despite Russia’s recently announced plans to withdraw many of the 100,000 troops it had built up along the border with Ukraine in an alarming show of force this spring, a clear military threat remained.
“Russia has pulled back some forces, but significant forces remain on Ukraine’s border,” Mr. Blinken noted. “And so Russia has the capacity on fairly short notice to take aggressive actions if it so chooses.” Mr. Blinken added that the United States was “watching this very, very carefully.”
Mr. Blinken spoke at a joint news conference with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, who effusively thanked the first senior Biden official to visit Kyiv since the departure of President Donald J. Trump from office. The former president ensnared Mr. Zelensky in a global scandal that the Ukrainian leader clearly hopes to forget.
efforts to drive corruption out of Ukraine’s political system, Mr. Zelensky boasted about his reform record, then indicated that he hopes the matter is finished.
“Let’s not talk about the past,” he said. “Let’s let bygones be bygones, and let’s discuss the future.”
a raid on his apartment and office. Federal agents were reportedly seeking evidence of his role in the May 2019 removal of the American ambassador to Ukraine, allegedly at the behest of Mr. Giuliani’s Ukrainian associates.
Mr. Blinken for his part maneuvered around a question featuring Mr. Giuliani, but reminded Mr. Zelensky — whose reform record has drawn mixed reviews — that “effectively combating corruption is one of the most important issues to the Ukrainian people, and is crucial to improving their lives.”
insurgency in the country’s east. Fighting in the region has claimed more than 13,000 lives, according to the United Nations.
To sustain that conflict, and to weather any new offensive by Russia, Ukrainian officials are eager for more military assistance and potential arms sales from Washington, which currently sends Ukraine more than $400 million in annual military aid. Mr. Blinken said that the Biden administration was “working very actively” on the subject but offered no further details.
But Mr. Blinken underscored his concern about Ukraine’s military plight with a morning visit to an outdoor memorial for soldiers who have died in the conflict in the east. The monument, known as the Wall of National Remembrance, features hundreds of photographs of the fallen that run along an outer wall of St. Michael’s, a 12th-century monastery and church.
In driving rain, Mr. Blinken, accompanied by the senior figure in Ukraine’s Orthodox Church and the country’s foreign minister, knelt to lay flowers at the foot of the wall.
Later, Mr. Blinken told Mr. Zelensky that the pictures of the fallen had touched him personally.
pressured him to announce an investigation into Mr. Biden, then a Democratic contender for president, and Mr. Biden’s son Hunter, who worked for a Ukrainian energy company. Mr. Trump withheld U.S. military aid to Ukraine as he pressed his request. The episode led to Mr. Trump’s first impeachment and a painfully awkward experience for Mr. Zelensky.
During the joint appearance with Mr. Blinken, the Ukrainian leader said he hoped that Mr. Biden himself could visit Ukraine soon. Mr. Blinken cited limits on travel because of the coronavirus but said that the American president “will welcome the opportunity at the right time.”
Mr. Blinken was joined by a longtime ally of the Ukrainians, the State Department’s newly confirmed under secretary for political affairs, Victoria Nuland. A career Foreign Service officer and high-ranking State Department official in the Obama administration, Ms. Nuland left government in early 2017 but was tapped this year to become the department’s No. 3 official.
Ms. Nuland is well remembered in Kyiv — and reviled at the Kremlin — for passing out food in 2013 to protesters in the Ukrainian capital’s Independence Square, known as the Maidan, in the prelude to the overthrow of Viktor F. Yanukovych, the Russian-backed president of Ukraine at the time.
Her presence was clearly appreciated. At the beginning of a morning meeting with Mr. Blinken, the foreign minister, Dmytro Kubela, congratulated Ms. Nuland on her appointment and noted to laughter that one of the few major events on the Maidan that he had missed “was your cookies.”
MASLOVKA, Russia — Deep in a pine forest in southern Russia, military trucks, their silhouettes blurred by camouflage netting, appear through the trees. Soldiers in four-wheel-drive vehicles creep along rutted dirt roads. And outside a newly pitched tent camp, sentries, Kalashnikovs slung over their shoulders, pace back and forth.
Over the past month or so, Russia has deployed what analysts are calling the largest military buildup along the border with Ukraine since the outset of Kyiv’s war with Russian-backed separatists seven years ago.
It is far from a clandestine operation: During a trip to southern Russia by a New York Times journalist, evidence of the buildup was everywhere to be seen.
The mobilization is setting off alarms in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, European capitals and Washington, and is increasingly seen as an early foreign policy test for the Biden administration, which just hit Moscow with a new round of sanctions. Russia responded almost immediately, announcing on Friday that it would expel 10 U.S. diplomats.
“Solar Winds” hacking of government agencies and corporations, various disinformation efforts and the annexation of Crimea.
told European lawmakers on Wednesday that Russia is now garrisoning about 110,000 soldiers near the Ukrainian border. In Washington, the director of the C.I.A. told Congress that it remains unclear whether the buildup is a show of force or preparation for something more ominous.
Even if the goal of the buildup remains unclear, military analysts say it was most certainly meant to be seen. A show of force is hardly a good show if nobody watches.
“They are deploying in a very visible way,” said Michael Kofman, a senior researcher at CNA, a think tank based in Arlington, Va., who has been monitoring the military activity. “They are doing it overtly, so we can see it. It is intentional.”
foreign reporters have been showing up daily to watch the buzz of activity.
Conflict Intelligence Team, a group of independent Russian military analysts.
Gigantic military trucks are parked within sight of the roads, which have, strangely, remained open to public traffic.
news release to announce the redeployment of the naval landing craft closer to Ukraine, in case anybody was curious. The vessels sailed along rivers and canals connecting the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea. The ministry posted pictures.
forces for a possible incursion.
But Mr. Burns said U.S. officials were still trying to determine if the Kremlin was preparing for military action or merely sending a signal.
MOSCOW — The United States placed sanctions Friday on a Ukrainian business tycoon seen as the most powerful figure in the country outside of the government, signaling an aggressive new approach by the Biden administration to dealing with corruption in Ukraine.
The businessman, Ihor Kolomoisky, an oil and media magnate, was already under investigation in the United States on accusations of embezzlement and fraud, and of using the proceeds to buy commercial real estate in Cleveland, Ohio.
At home in Ukraine, he is one of the most prominent of the ultrawealthy class of post-Soviet oligarchs and has been both an ally and a political albatross for President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Ukrainian oligarchs exercise outsized influence in the country, controlling the news media and at times financing entire factions in Parliament at odds with American and European efforts to strengthen Ukraine’s pro-Western geopolitical orientation. They have done so even as they kept money in Western banks and investments and sent their children to live or study in Europe and the United States.
statement, Mr. Blinken said Mr. Kolomoisky had used a position in government as a regional governor in Ukraine for his personal benefit. While acknowledging that the Ukrainian holds no official role today, Mr. Blinken said he posed a risk for “ongoing efforts to undermine Ukraine’s democratic processes and institutions,” an apparent reference to his efforts to influence the Zelensky administration. Mr. Zelensky has denied he is beholden to the businessman.
published an article saying he plans to diminish the role of the oligarchs in Ukraine’s politics.
But that is no simple matter. Mr. Kolomoisky controls a faction in Mr. Zelensky’s political party, the Servant of the People, without which the party would not have a majority in Parliament. Mr. Kolomoisky’s television station supported Mr. Zelensky in the 2019 presidential election.
Handling Ukrainian corruption has been politically tinged in the United States, too.
President Biden has long experience in Ukraine, having handled that portfolio as vice-president in the Obama administration — activities that figured prominently in the first impeachment of President Donald J. Trump.
A central contention of Democratic lawmakers in that trial, in the fall of 2019, was that Mr. Trump had falsely asserted a desire to fight corruption in Ukraine by withholding military aid. In fact, they said, he withheld the aid to pressure Mr. Zelensky to investigate Mr. Biden, at the time a likely opponent in the 2020 presidential election. Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, had worked with associates of Mr. Kolomoisky in his efforts to uncover dirt on Mr. Biden in Ukraine.