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World: EXPLAINER: Is Russia going to invade Ukraine?

The timeline of Trump's ties with Russia lines up with allegations of conspiracy and misconduct

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MOSCOW (AP) — Ukrainian and Western officials are worried that a Russian military buildup near Ukraine could signal plans by Moscow to invade its ex-Soviet neighbor.

FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin holds a binoculars as he watches the joint strategic exercise of the armed forces of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus Zapad-2021 at the Mulino training ground in the Nizhny Novgorod region, Russia, on Sept. 13, 2021. The Kremlin has rejected Ukrainian and Western allegations that it amassed troops preparing for possible invasion of Ukraine, describing the claims as a cover for their own alleged aggressive designs. (Sergei Savostyanov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin holds a binoculars as he watches the joint strategic exercise of the armed forces of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus Zapad-2021 at the Mulino training ground in the Nizhny Novgorod region, Russia, on Sept. 13, 2021. The Kremlin has rejected Ukrainian and Western allegations that it amassed troops preparing for possible invasion of Ukraine, describing the claims as a cover for their own alleged aggressive designs. (Sergei Savostyanov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

The Kremlin insists it has no such intention and has accused Ukraine and its Western backers of making the claims to cover up their own allegedly aggressive designs.

The world is worried Putin is about to invade Ukraine. Here's why

  The world is worried Putin is about to invade Ukraine. Here's why Russian President Vladimir Putin's next move is being watched closely by experts.Tens of thousands of Russian troops have reportedly gathered at the border with Ukraine, and experts fear Russia could be about to stage a repeat of its 2014 invasion and annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, which prompted global outrage and sanctions on Moscow.

It’s unclear whether the Russian troop concentration heralds an imminent attack or represents an attempt by Russian President Vladimir Putin to persuade the U.S. and its NATO allies to refrain from sending soldiers and weapons to Ukraine, and drop plans for its eventual integration into NATO.

FILE - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy surrounded by servicemen as he visits the war-hit Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, on Oct. 14, 2021. Ukrainian and Western officials are worried that a Russian military buildup near Ukraine could signal plans by Moscow to invade its ex-Soviet neighbor. The Kremlin insists it has no such intention and has accused Ukraine and its Western backers of making the claims to cover up their own allegedly aggressive designs. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy surrounded by servicemen as he visits the war-hit Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, on Oct. 14, 2021. Ukrainian and Western officials are worried that a Russian military buildup near Ukraine could signal plans by Moscow to invade its ex-Soviet neighbor. The Kremlin insists it has no such intention and has accused Ukraine and its Western backers of making the claims to cover up their own allegedly aggressive designs. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP, File)

Here is a look at the current tensions:

Russia is increasing combat readiness in eastern Ukraine, defense ministry warns

  Russia is increasing combat readiness in eastern Ukraine, defense ministry warns Both the US and Ukraine have warned that Russia could be preparing to invade Ukraine in the next few months.In a statement on Tuesday, it said that Russia "is increasing the combat readiness of the Russian occupation forces in the temporarily occupied territory in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

WHAT ARE THE ROOTS OF THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE STANDOFF?

Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 after the country's Moscow-friendly president was driven from power by mass protests. Weeks later, Russia threw its weight behind a separatist insurgency that broke out in Ukraine's east.

FILE  - This image released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service shows, Russian military vehicles move during drills in Crimea on April 22, 2021. Ukrainian and Western officials are worried that a Russian military buildup near Ukraine could signal plans by Moscow to invade its ex-Soviet neighbor. The Kremlin insists it has no such intention and has accused Ukraine and its Western backers of making the claims to cover up their own allegedly aggressive designs. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - This image released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service shows, Russian military vehicles move during drills in Crimea on April 22, 2021. Ukrainian and Western officials are worried that a Russian military buildup near Ukraine could signal plans by Moscow to invade its ex-Soviet neighbor. The Kremlin insists it has no such intention and has accused Ukraine and its Western backers of making the claims to cover up their own allegedly aggressive designs. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File)

Ukraine and the West accused Russia of sending its troops and weapons to back the rebels. Moscow denied that, charging that Russians who joined the separatists were volunteers.

The US's refusal to accept reality in Ukraine could get a lot of people killed

  The US's refusal to accept reality in Ukraine could get a lot of people killed Biden must honestly assess if it is worth starting World War III over a territory with little significance to overall US security. © Sergei Malgavko\TASS via Getty Images Russian landing ships and military vehicles during an exercise at the Opuk training ground in Crimea, April 22, 2021. Sergei Malgavko\TASS via Getty Images Russia has proven that it is willing to bear significant monetary and human costs to prevent a western-aligned Ukraine. Years of tough economic sanctions and the estimated loss of several hundred Russian soldiers has done little to change Russia's objectives in Ukraine.

More than 14,000 people have died in the fighting that devastated Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland known as Donbas.

A 2015 peace agreement brokered by France and Germany helped end large-scale battles, but efforts to reach a political settlement have failed and sporadic skirmishes have continued along the tense line of contact.

Earlier this year, a spike in cease-fire violations in the east and a Russian troop concentration near Ukraine fueled war fears, but tensions abated when Moscow pulled back the bulk of its forces after maneuvers in April.

FILE - This photo released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, shows Russian Su-24 bombers parked at an air base in Crimea in preparation for maneuvers. Ukrainian and Western officials are worried that a Russian military buildup near Ukraine could signal plans by Moscow to invade its ex-Soviet neighbor. The Kremlin insists it has no such intention and has accused Ukraine and its Western backers of making the claims to cover up their own allegedly aggressive designs. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - This photo released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, shows Russian Su-24 bombers parked at an air base in Crimea in preparation for maneuvers. Ukrainian and Western officials are worried that a Russian military buildup near Ukraine could signal plans by Moscow to invade its ex-Soviet neighbor. The Kremlin insists it has no such intention and has accused Ukraine and its Western backers of making the claims to cover up their own allegedly aggressive designs. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File)

THE LATEST RUSSIAN MILITARY BUILDUP

Russia's buildup of troops near Ukraine sparks fears of attack: Analysis

  Russia's buildup of troops near Ukraine sparks fears of attack: Analysis The Russian buildup of troops near Ukraine has triggered the worst fears of a major Russian military incursion since 2014. Fears of invasion are greater now than at any time since Moscow first seized Crimea in 2014.

FILE - In this photo released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, a joint strategic exercise of the armed forces of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus Zapad-2021 is seen in the Nizhny Novgorod region, Russia, on Sept. 11, 2021. Ukrainian and Western officials are worried that a Russian military buildup near Ukraine could signal plans by Moscow to invade its ex-Soviet neighbor. The Kremlin insists it has no such intention and has accused Ukraine and its Western backers of making the claims to cover up their own allegedly aggressive designs. (Vadim Savitskiy/Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this photo released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, a joint strategic exercise of the armed forces of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus Zapad-2021 is seen in the Nizhny Novgorod region, Russia, on Sept. 11, 2021. Ukrainian and Western officials are worried that a Russian military buildup near Ukraine could signal plans by Moscow to invade its ex-Soviet neighbor. The Kremlin insists it has no such intention and has accused Ukraine and its Western backers of making the claims to cover up their own allegedly aggressive designs. (Vadim Savitskiy/Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File)

Ukraine complained this month that Moscow has kept about 90,000 troops not far from the two countries’ border following massive war games in western Russia in the fall.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said units of the Russian 41st army have remained near Yelnya, a town about 260 kilometers (160 miles) north of the Ukrainian border.

The commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian armed forces, Lt. Gen. Valeriy Zaluzhny, said Russia also has about 2,100 military personnel in the rebel-controlled east and that Russian officers hold all commanding positions in the separatist forces. Moscow has repeatedly denied the presence of its troops in eastern Ukraine.

Putin is 'deadly serious' about neutralizing Ukraine, and has the upper hand over the West, former US diplomats and officials warn

  Putin is 'deadly serious' about neutralizing Ukraine, and has the upper hand over the West, former US diplomats and officials warn "You've got to take it seriously because Russia has crossed the Rubicon many times before when people said they wouldn't," one expert warned."We don't know what President Putin's intentions are, but we do know what's happened in the past," Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently told reporters. "We do know the playbook of trying to cite some illusory provocation from Ukraine or any other country and then using that as an excuse to do what Russia is planning to do all along.

Kyrylo Budanov, head of Ukraine’s military intelligence, claimed in a weekend interview with the Military Times that Moscow was preparing an attack from several directions, including from Russia's ally Belarus, in late January or early February.

FILE - In this photo released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, flames rise over the Mulino training ground in the Nizhny Novgorod region during the joint strategic exercise of the armed forces of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus Zapad-2021 in the Nizhny Novgorod region, Russia, on Sept. 11, 2021. Ukrainian and Western officials are worried that a Russian military buildup near Ukraine could signal plans by Moscow to invade its ex-Soviet neighbor. The Kremlin insists it has no such intention and has accused Ukraine and its Western backers of making the claims to cover up their own allegedly aggressive designs. (Vadim Savitskiy/Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this photo released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, flames rise over the Mulino training ground in the Nizhny Novgorod region during the joint strategic exercise of the armed forces of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus Zapad-2021 in the Nizhny Novgorod region, Russia, on Sept. 11, 2021. Ukrainian and Western officials are worried that a Russian military buildup near Ukraine could signal plans by Moscow to invade its ex-Soviet neighbor. The Kremlin insists it has no such intention and has accused Ukraine and its Western backers of making the claims to cover up their own allegedly aggressive designs. (Vadim Savitskiy/Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File)

Russia hasn't provided any details about its troops numbers and locations, saying that their deployment on its own territory shouldn't concern anyone.

WHAT DOES MOSCOW WANT?

The Kremlin has accused Ukraine of failing to honor the 2015 peace deal and criticized the West for failing to encourage Ukrainian compliance. The agreement was a diplomatic coup for Moscow, requiring Ukraine to grant broad autonomy to the rebel regions and offer a sweeping amnesty to the rebels.

Ukraine, in turn, has pointed to cease-fire violations by Russia-backed separatists and the continuing Russian troops presence in the rebel east — accusations the Kremlin has denied.

Russia's Military Buildup Next to Ukraine May Force Joe Biden's Hand

  Russia's Military Buildup Next to Ukraine May Force Joe Biden's Hand NATO has asked Russia to "reduce tensions and de-escalate" as Kyiv increases its calls to join the U.S-led alliance to counter the threat from Moscow.With Russian tanks moving west towards Ukraine months after a similar buildup caused outrage, NATO's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned Moscow on Friday of the risk of "miscalculation.

FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu arrive to attend the joint strategic exercise of the armed forces of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus Zapad-2021 at the Mulino training ground in the Nizhny Novgorod region, Russia, on Sept. 13, 2021. Ukrainian and Western officials are worried that a Russian military buildup near Ukraine could signal plans by Moscow to invade its ex-Soviet neighbor. The Kremlin insists it has no such intention and has accused Ukraine and its Western backers of making the claims to cover up their own allegedly aggressive designs. (Sergei Savostyanov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu arrive to attend the joint strategic exercise of the armed forces of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus Zapad-2021 at the Mulino training ground in the Nizhny Novgorod region, Russia, on Sept. 13, 2021. Ukrainian and Western officials are worried that a Russian military buildup near Ukraine could signal plans by Moscow to invade its ex-Soviet neighbor. The Kremlin insists it has no such intention and has accused Ukraine and its Western backers of making the claims to cover up their own allegedly aggressive designs. (Sergei Savostyanov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

Amid the recriminations, Russia has rejected a four-way meeting with Ukraine, France and Germany, saying it's useless in view of Ukraine’s refusal to abide by the 2015 agreement.

Moscow has strongly criticized the U.S. and its NATO allies for providing Ukraine with weapons and holding joint drills, saying that encourages Ukrainian hawks to try and regain the rebel-held areas by force.

Earlier this year, Putin ominously said a military attempt by Ukraine to reclaim the rebel east would have “grave consequences for the Ukrainian statehood.”

The Russian leader has repeatedly asserted that Russians and Ukrainians are “one people,” and charged that large chunks of Ukrainian territory are historic parts of Russia — arbitrarily granted to Ukraine by Communist leaders under the Soviet Union.

FILE - This frame from a video released on April 23, 2021, by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service shows, Russian troops board landing vessels after drills in Crimea. Ukrainian and Western officials are worried that a Russian military buildup near Ukraine could signal plans by Moscow to invade its ex-Soviet neighbor. The Kremlin insists it has no such intention and has accused Ukraine and its Western backers of making the claims to cover up their own allegedly aggressive designs. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - This frame from a video released on April 23, 2021, by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service shows, Russian troops board landing vessels after drills in Crimea. Ukrainian and Western officials are worried that a Russian military buildup near Ukraine could signal plans by Moscow to invade its ex-Soviet neighbor. The Kremlin insists it has no such intention and has accused Ukraine and its Western backers of making the claims to cover up their own allegedly aggressive designs. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File)

Putin has strongly emphasized that Ukraine's aspirations to join NATO represent a red line for Moscow, and also expressed concern about plans by some NATO members to set up military training centers in Ukraine. He said that would give them a military foothold there even without Ukraine joining NATO.

US sees signs Russia plans Ukraine invasion in early 2022

  US sees signs Russia plans Ukraine invasion in early 2022 U.S. officials believe Russia is planning a multi-front invasion of Ukraine, involving as many as 175,000 troops, as soon as early 2022, Fox News has confirmed. A senior U.S. defense official told Fox News that details outlined in a report Friday night by The Washington Post are in line with the thinking of U.S. intelligence officials. The U.S. is taking recent signaling from the Kremlin very seriously, and does not consider the matter a bluff, Fox News was told. Russia already has about 100,000 troops stationed along its border with Ukraine, the defense official said.

“They may put anything there under the guise of training centers,” Putin said last month. “Formal membership in NATO may never come, but the military development of the territory is already under way."

IS THE THREAT OF A RUSSIAN INVASION REAL?

Russia rejected talk of an invasion plot as a Western smear campaign and charged the claims could conceal a Ukrainian intention for an attack in the east. Ukraine denies such plans.

FILE - In this photo released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, a view of the joint strategic exercise of the armed forces of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus Zapad-2021 at the Mulino training ground in the Nizhny Novgorod region, Russia, on Sept. 11, 2021. Ukrainian and Western officials are worried that a Russian military buildup near Ukraine could signal plans by Moscow to invade its ex-Soviet neighbor. The Kremlin insists it has no such intention and has accused Ukraine and its Western backers of making the claims to cover up their own allegedly aggressive designs. (Vadim Savitskiy/Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this photo released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, a view of the joint strategic exercise of the armed forces of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus Zapad-2021 at the Mulino training ground in the Nizhny Novgorod region, Russia, on Sept. 11, 2021. Ukrainian and Western officials are worried that a Russian military buildup near Ukraine could signal plans by Moscow to invade its ex-Soviet neighbor. The Kremlin insists it has no such intention and has accused Ukraine and its Western backers of making the claims to cover up their own allegedly aggressive designs. (Vadim Savitskiy/Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File)

U.S. officials conceded that Moscow's intentions are unclear, but pointed to Russia's past behavior as a cause for concern.

Speaking to Ukraine’s foreign minister this month, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Putin’s “playbook” was to build up forces near the border and then invade, “claiming falsely that (Russia) was provoked.”

Some observers interpret the troop buildup as a demonstration by Putin that Russia is prepared to raise the stakes to convince NATO to respect Moscow’s red lines and stop sending troops and weapons to Ukraine.

Last week, Putin noted with satisfaction that Moscow's warnings finally have got some traction and caused a “certain stress” in the West. He added: “It's necessary to keep them in that condition for as long as possible so that it doesn't occur to them to stage some conflict on our western borders that we don't need."

FILE In this photo released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, a view of the joint strategic exercise of the armed forces of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus Zapad-2021 at the Mulino training ground in the Nizhny Novgorod region, Russia, on Sept. 11, 2021. Ukrainian and Western officials are worried that a Russian military buildup near Ukraine could signal plans by Moscow to invade its ex-Soviet neighbor. The Kremlin insists it has no such intention and has accused Ukraine and its Western backers of making the claims to cover up their own allegedly aggressive designs. (Vadim Savitskiy/Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE In this photo released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, a view of the joint strategic exercise of the armed forces of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus Zapad-2021 at the Mulino training ground in the Nizhny Novgorod region, Russia, on Sept. 11, 2021. Ukrainian and Western officials are worried that a Russian military buildup near Ukraine could signal plans by Moscow to invade its ex-Soviet neighbor. The Kremlin insists it has no such intention and has accused Ukraine and its Western backers of making the claims to cover up their own allegedly aggressive designs. (Vadim Savitskiy/Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File)

He urged Russian diplomats to push for “serious long-term guarantees ensuring our security in this area because Russia can't keep on going like that, constantly thinking about what could happen there tomorrow."

FILE - In this photo provided by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, Russian military vehicles prepare to be loaded into a plane for airborne drills during maneuvers in Crimea on  April 22, 2021. Ukrainian and Western officials are worried that a Russian military buildup near Ukraine could signal plans by Moscow to invade its ex-Soviet neighbor. The Kremlin insists it has no such intention and has accused Ukraine and its Western backers of making the claims to cover up their own allegedly aggressive designs. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this photo provided by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, Russian military vehicles prepare to be loaded into a plane for airborne drills during maneuvers in Crimea on April 22, 2021. Ukrainian and Western officials are worried that a Russian military buildup near Ukraine could signal plans by Moscow to invade its ex-Soviet neighbor. The Kremlin insists it has no such intention and has accused Ukraine and its Western backers of making the claims to cover up their own allegedly aggressive designs. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File) In this photo released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, a Russian drone launches a missile during the Zapad-2021 war games by Russian and Belarusian forces at the Mulino training ground in the Nizhny Novgorod region, Russia, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. Ukrainian and Western officials are worried that a Russian military buildup near Ukraine could signal plans by Moscow to invade its ex-Soviet neighbor. The Kremlin insists it has no such intention and has accused Ukraine and its Western backers of making the claims to cover up their own allegedly aggressive designs. (Vadim Savitskiy/Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File) © Provided by Associated Press In this photo released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, a Russian drone launches a missile during the Zapad-2021 war games by Russian and Belarusian forces at the Mulino training ground in the Nizhny Novgorod region, Russia, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. Ukrainian and Western officials are worried that a Russian military buildup near Ukraine could signal plans by Moscow to invade its ex-Soviet neighbor. The Kremlin insists it has no such intention and has accused Ukraine and its Western backers of making the claims to cover up their own allegedly aggressive designs. (Vadim Savitskiy/Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File)

US sees signs Russia plans Ukraine invasion in early 2022 .
U.S. officials believe Russia is planning a multi-front invasion of Ukraine, involving as many as 175,000 troops, as soon as early 2022, Fox News has confirmed. A senior U.S. defense official told Fox News that details outlined in a report Friday night by The Washington Post are in line with the thinking of U.S. intelligence officials. The U.S. is taking recent signaling from the Kremlin very seriously, and does not consider the matter a bluff, Fox News was told. Russia already has about 100,000 troops stationed along its border with Ukraine, the defense official said.

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