Russian servicemen from the 150th Motor Rifle Division of the Southern Military District take part in exercises in the Rostov Region, Russia, on January 28, 2022.
- Russia has added blood supplies to its military buildup on Ukraine’s border, Reuters reported.
- This could be another sign its planning to invade, experts said.
- The supplies could be used to treat casualties if Russia invades.
In another sign it could be preparing to invade, Russia has now added blood and other medical supplies to its military buildup near Ukraine, three US officials told Reuters. Such supplies could be used to treat casualties in the event of a Russian military incursion into Ukraine.
Russia has gathered roughly 100,000 troops on the border of the former Soviet republic. The Kremlin claims it has no plans to invade, but has refused calls from Western leaders to lower the temperature in the region by withdrawing troops. The US has expressed concerns that a Russian invasion could be imminent, though Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has urged against causing “panic.”
“It doesn’t guarantee that there’s going to be another attack, but you would not execute another attack unless you have that in hand,” Ben Hodges, a retired US lieutenant general currently at the Center for European Policy Analysis, told Reuters.
“If true, then we are starting to see key indicators of Russian preparations for a large-scale military operation, expecting casualties, etc,” Michael Kofman, a Russia expert at CNA, said in a tweet responding to the report. “Still missing certain elements, but the picture is tracking with Russia potentially able to conduct a mil op within a few weeks.”
Samuel Charap, a senior political scientist at RAND Corporation, tweeted that the report on blood supplies being moved near Ukraine was the “clearest warning sign that could exist.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon on Friday warned that Russia has a wide array of options in terms of an attack on Ukraine.
“While we don’t believe that President Putin has made a final decision to use these forces against Ukraine, he clearly now has the capability,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said at a press conference, per the Associated Press.
Russia in 2014 invaded and annexed Crimea from Ukraine, and has been supporting rebels in a war against Ukrainian forces in the eastern Donbass region since that year. Despite its history of aggression to Ukraine, the Kremlin has blamed recent tensions on NATO.
Moscow has issued demands for binding security guarantees from the West, including prohibiting Ukraine and Georgia from ever joining NATO. The US and NATO have made clear that this demand is a non-starter, and that the alliance’s open door policy is non-negotiable.
The US has placed 8,500 troops on high alert for a potential deployment to NATO member countries in Eastern Europe, but has ruled out sending troops to Ukraine if Russia invades.