Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that up to the end of September, escalation on the part of the Russian Federation is possible at any moment.
"We're aware of specific numbers. Some 30,000-35,000 [forces] at the period of the latest escalation were deployed in the temporarily occupied territories of Donbas. Along the borders of Ukraine and Russia, we counted somewhere around 50,000 to 80,000 military in different periods, and on the territory of Crimea, too, there was about 33,000 to 35,000. When I talk about the occupied territories, there are forces there: 30,000 to 35,000 separatist forces plus about 3,000 Russia's regular officers," Zelensky told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, according to his press service.
Zelenskiy noted that when Europe and the United States increased pressure on Russia, the likelihood of further escalation decreased.
Read alsoZelensky says "Union State" of Russia, Belarus "threat" to UkraineThe president added that about 3,500 forces s were withdrawn from the territory of the temporarily occupied Crimea.
"All the rest remain in place, 90% of hardware remains place. Therefore, my vision is that escalation is possible at any time up to the end of September, say, exactly up to September 12-16. We know that they will be holding the Zapad-2021 exercises. Therefore, I believe that the situation will remain very threatening throughout this period," the Ukrainian leader stressed.
Russian buildup along Ukraine borders, in occupied Crimea
- In March 2021, Russia deployed 28 battalion tactical groups along the state border of Ukraine and in the temporarily occupied territories. It is also said to be planning to bring up to 25 battalion tactical groups under the guise of preparations for military drills.
- Fifteen warships of Russia's Caspian Flotilla entered the Black Sea. Russia also relocated Su-25SM3 warplanes from Russia's Stavropol Krai (Territory) to occupied Crimea.
- On April 22, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said his country would begin the withdrawal of troops, which had taken part in military exercises in occupied Crimea and near the borders of Ukraine, to their permanent bases in the Southern and Western Military Districts.
- On May 6, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the Russian Federation had withdrawn only 3,500 troops from occupied Crimea out of tens of thousands of military personnel deployed on the borders and temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine.
- On May 13, the U.S. Mission to the OSCE said Russia had deployed a variety of heavy weaponry to occupied Crimea, including T-72B3 battle tanks, 120mm mortars, 122mm howitzers, and armored vehicles.
- On May 25, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said tens of thousands of Russian troops remain in and around Ukraine.