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Why is Russia threatening Ukraine?

With 100,000 Russian troops stationed near the Ukrainian border, fears are growing that President Vladimir Putin may decide to invade.

The threat comes eight years after Russia annexed Crimea and sparked fighting in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region, where low-level conflict, which has killed more than 14,000 people, is still brewing between Kiev and the separatists.

While the West hopes to ease tensions and risks of war in the region, talks between the Kremlin and NATO have not been successful. And so, as things stand, it’s far from clear what’s going to happen next.

Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, traveled to Europe this week to try to defuse the situation. He will meet with his Russian counterparts on Friday, following talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and other allies on Wednesday and Thursday.

However, US President Joe Biden struck a pessimistic tone at the White House on Wednesday, telling reporters there would most likely be an invasion.

“I guess he’s going to move in. He has to do something,” he said of Mr Putin.

If that happens, Moscow “will pay a serious and expensive price,” Biden warned. This would include a series of penalties.

But analysts say such threats are unlikely to deter the Putin regime, which has tried in recent years to “protect” the Russian economy.

The current standoff comes as an attempt to correct what Mr. Putin perceives as NATO encroachment into countries like Ukraine that were previously ruled by Russia.

While polls show that a large majority of Ukrainians would like their country to join the organization, the Kremlin wants the West to promise that Ukraine will never join NATO, which the defensive alliance has excluded.

Mr Putin laid out his own thinking on Ukraine and its relationship with Russia in a 5,000-word essay published last summer.

Titled “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians,” the treatise was “one step away from declaring war,” according to Anders Aslund, senior researcher at the Stockholm Free World Forum.

The Russian president reiterated his claim that Russians and Ukrainians are “one people”, suggesting that Russia had been “robbed”.

In another part of the text, he offered more overt threats to Kiev. “I am convinced that the true sovereignty of Ukraine is only possible in partnership with Russia,” Putin wrote.

Months later, Mr. Putin sent tens of thousands of troops to Ukraine. And it is now expanding the Russian military presence in the region, with more troops heading to Belarus for joint military exercises scheduled for later this month.

There are currently 127,000 Russian military personnel – 21,000 of whom are in the maritime and air divisions – near the border, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said.

Both the United Kingdom and the United States have recently provided military support to Ukraine, with the former sending anti-tank weapons to the country earlier this week.

However, such gestures are likely to be cold comfort to Kiev in the face of the threat of a Russian invasion, given the significant gap in military strength between potential fighters. While Ukraine has less than 250,000 troops and is looking to add another 130,000 to its ranks, Russia has almost a million troops. It is also much more sophisticated and abundant military equipment.

Speaking about the disparity between the two armies, Vadym Prystaiko, Ukraine’s ambassador to the UK, said it was unfortunate that his country was not in NATO.

“We are not part of this family and we are alone against the biggest army in Europe,” he said.

Russian officials have repeatedly denied plans to invade, but Moscow has also moved troops into Belarus for what it calls joint military exercises, giving it the chance to attack neighboring Ukraine from the north, the east and the south. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said this week that Western arms deliveries to Ukraine, military maneuvers and NATO plane flights were responsible for rising tensions around the Ukraine.

Perhaps as a prelude to the invasion, more than a dozen Ukrainian government websites were hacked last Thursday. The country’s foreign ministry said it was too early to say who was to blame, but added that “there is a long record of Russian cyberattacks against Ukraine.”

The hackers left an ominous message on the websites they had disabled. “Ukrainian! All your personal data has been uploaded to the public network. All data on the computer is destroyed, it is impossible to restore it,” it reads.

“All information about you has become public, be afraid and expect the worst. This is for your past, your present and your future,” the post added.

The Independent Gt

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