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Russian invasion 'storm' gathering on Ukraine border, Western officials say

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By Reuters

LONDON -Western concerns that Russia will invade Ukraine have only grown in recent days as Russian military units are now “poised” to make a large-scale invasion and the outlook looks grim, three senior Western officials said on Monday.

Russia ordered the military build-up while demanding NATO prevent Ukraine from ever joining the military alliance but says Western warnings that it is planning to invade Ukraine are hysterical and dangerous.

Three Western officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Russian military units massed around Ukraine’s border were now “poised” for an invasion while previously they were postured for an invasion.

They said they did not know whether or not Russian President Vladimir Putin had yet ordered an invasion, but raised concerns about an increase in false provocations in Russian-backed rebel regions in Ukraine.

“Our concern about what we are seeing on the ground has only risen,” said one of the Western officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Our overall picture, I have to say, is a very dark one with storm clouds gathering on Ukraine’s borders.”

The officials said they were watching Putin’s security council meeting on Monday and a meeting of the Russian lower and upper houses of parliament.

A second official said Russian forces continued to build up, including S-400s, aircraft and armoured vehicles being deployed into forward locations. Russia now has 110 battalion tactical groups in the area of operations, the official said.

Two thirds of those battalion tactical groups are within 50 km of the Ukrainian border. Of those groups, about half are now tactically deployed.

“This is a move from being postured for military operations to being poised for military operations,” the official said.