The Russian military could reach the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv within 48 hours, a US intelligence report reveals.
It is likely they could take nine different routes to get into the country – and up to 50,000 civilians could be killed or wounded, it says.
According to NBC news, the report claims Russia has already deployed nearly 100 of its military’s 168 battalion-tactical groups, made up of 800 to 900 troops each, with more flowing in every day.
And President Vladimir Putin has dispatched personnel and equipment from six of the seven Russian special operations units, called Spetsnaz, according to the assessment.
Each unit is made up of 250 to 300 elite fighters.
Putin has been amassing his troops on the border in protest at what he perceives as Ukraine’s move towards European institutions and NATO, in particular.
Moscow has so far denied it is planning to attack the former Soviet state, but in a series of bold security demands, the Kremlin has urged NATO to deny membership to Ukraine and other ex-Soviet countries – and to roll back its military deployments in central and eastern Europe which are seen as a threat to Russia.
The report says the two most extensive invasion scenarios would involve a simultaneous attack from multiple sides – a manoeuvre known as a ‘pincer movement’ or ‘double envelopment’.
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In one approach outlined, the Russian military would take over most Ukrainian territory east of the Dnipro River, which includes about 50% of Ukrainian military forces, including their most capable units.
Russian tanks and mechanized units would cross the border from Russia and move toward Poltava and Kharkiv, encircling the cities as they move to the river, it says.
The report suggests ground forces would then advance along three lines from Donbas, traveling east and south to Crimea, and taking the coastline along the Sea of Azov.
Russian military helicopters would simultaneously support an air assault from Crimea, it adds.
This option could also include an amphibious assault to take over the Black Sea coast, as well as air and ground units moving from Odessa to Moldova to create a land bridge along the Black Sea.
With well-established roads in that area, Russian tanks and military vehicles could be at Kyiv’s doorstep in the first two days, the assessment concludes.
It goes on: “The Russian military has placed two advanced S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems in Belarus that will give them air superiority over much of the country with the ability to stop aircraft or incoming missiles.”
Both attacks would open with an array of artillery strikes, medium-range ballistic missiles and bomber attacks – likely at night – that would target ammunition depots, radar stations, aircraft and air defence systems, and other critical Ukrainian military sites.
Russia will attempt to take out Ukraine’s ability to defend itself in the opening hours, the assessment said.
It would conduct both cyber and electronic warfare (jamming) attacks to cut off the lines of communication between Ukrainian military units stationed in different parts of the country.
At the same time, the Russian military will seek to separate them physically, destroying bridges and using military troops and engineers to seize river crossings.
The assessment included grim figures for possible civilian casualties in the event of a full-scale Russian invasion: as many as 50,000 civilians killed or wounded.