America’s top diplomat has warned Russia remained poised for an offensive attack on Ukraine – with a widely reported withdrawal only affecting a small percentage of the reported 80,000 troops amassed on the border.
“In terms of the threat, it remains,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a press conference in Kiev on Thursday. “Russia has the capacity on fairly short notice to take aggressive action if it so chooses.”
The first senior Biden administration official to visit Ukraine, Mr Blinken said he had travelled to offer support for Ukraine as it manages a serious uptick in its seven-year undeclared conflict with its eastern neighbour.
Russia has massively increased the size of forces along its western border and in the annexed region of Crimea since the new year.
In April, The Independent documented a new military field camp close to the Ukrainian border, and a flow of military traffic westwards from as far away as Siberia.
Initially, Moscow claimed the new forces had been deployed to the border in response to Ukrainian aggression. Later, it said the moves were part of routine training, and all divisions would be soon deployed back to their normal bases.
Speaking alongside the US Secretary of State Blinken, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky claimed Moscow had withdrawn just 3,500 troops of 75,000 troops.
“Our intelligence tells us only 3,500 have started to withdraw from occupied Crimea,” he said.
“We don’t see any reduction elsewhere, and we think that the reductions are slow and the risk remains.”