- New satellite photos show Russia's significant force build-up near Ukraine amid invasion fears.
- Russia has denied having plans to invade but to little effect, with tens of thousands of troops deployed nearby.
- The US has said an attack could come at any time and on "short notice."
- For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
New commercial satellite imagery has come out showing Russia's massed military force presence near Ukraine as fears of an imminent invasion grow.
Maxar Technologies collected photos of what it says are Russian forces deployed to positions from 16 to 161 kilometres of the Ukrainian border at Klimovo, Klintsy, and the Pogonovo training area near Voronezh, among other places in western Russia.
While some photos from the well-known commercial satellite imagery firm are from late December, most of them were taken this week.
Russia has massed tens of thousands of troops near neighbouring Ukraine while making demands of the US and NATO that are simply non-starters, such as prohibiting Ukraine and Georgia — both countries Russia has previously invaded — from joining NATO and restricting the alliance's eastward expansion.
During high-level talks last week between Russia and the US and its allies, Russian officials reiterated that Russia has no plans to invade Ukraine, but Western leaders remain sceptical given Russia's unusual force posture near its neighbour and efforts to intimidate it.
Furthermore, Russia made no commitment to de-escalate tensions, putting that burden on the US and NATO instead. Talks concluded without any major breakthroughs on either side.
Commenting on the Russian build-up near its next-door neighbour, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that "we know that there are plans in place to increase that force even more on very short notice."
He added that this gives Russian President Vladimir Putin "the capacity, also on very short notice, to take further aggressive action against Ukraine," explaining that this has not only the US' attention, but also that of allies and partners in Europe.
On Tuesday, the White House warned that Russia could launch an attack on Ukraine "at any point."
Toward the end of last year, US intelligence determined that "Russian plans call for a military offensive against Ukraine as soon as early 2022" with "an estimated 175,000 personnel, along with armour, artillery and equipment," an administration official revealed to reporters in December.
More recently, it was announced that the US had intelligence Russia had positioned operatives in Ukraine for a possible "false-flag operation" to justify an invasion.
Talking to reporters on Wednesday, US President Joe Biden said that while it is unclear what Putin plans to do, his "guess" is that Putin will launch an offensive against Ukraine, saying "he has to do something."
That said, Biden again warned that Russia will face severe consequences, stressing that Putin has "never seen sanctions like the ones I promised to impose if he moves" on Ukraine.