Ex-deputy head of the General Staff of the Ukrainian army, Lieutenant-General (Retired), Candidate of Sciences (Military), Doctor of Engineering Science, Prof. Ihor Romanenko predicts Russian President Vladimir Putin will first try to bring pro-Russian forces to power in Ukraine, ensuring that a pro-Russian candidate wins the presidential election and as many pro-Russian members as possible are elected to a new Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine's parliament.
"Now, in my opinion, Putin thinks that it is more efficient and less costly to fulfill his own ambitions as for Ukraine by acting from the inside of our country, in particular, to destabilize the situation in Ukraine, using two electoral processes (presidential and parliamentary) in his own interests, engaging a 'fifth column' and his agents," Romanenko told the Ukrainian news outlet Glavred.
In his opinion, the Russian leader will continue to focus on this. "He is not yet inclined to act on a large scale," he said.
However, the expert predicts, if something goes wrong for the Russian leader in the Ukrainian state, he reserves the right to use his forces that have already been prepared.
"There is no reason to calm down, as Putin will simultaneously be preparing for other options to act, he will be preparing his armed forces in a modern way, within the limits of Russia's capabilities. We see it already: he is preparing weapons, training Russian troops, conducting large-scale drills," Romanenko said.
"As it is known, Russia needs about 240,000 troops to launch a large-scale offensive against Ukraine. In order to properly train personnel, they regularly conduct military exercises, which necessarily involve long-range military transport aviation to ensure the rapid transfer of military equipment and personnel, railway troops, which also provides a quick redeployment of troops, military assault troops," Romanenko said.
He noted such exercises were conducted by Russia both this and last year. "Some actions are being worked out in Syria, some forces (troops) are being deployed in Belarus. So, the preparations are under way. For now, given the economic and financial resources of Russia, the Kremlin still prefers to achieve its goals politically...," the general added.