Russia’s military has around 80,000 troops, around 1,400 artillery and missile systems, 900 tanks, 2,300 armored vehicles, 500 airplanes, and around 300 helicopters all stationed in the “temporarily occupied” parts of Ukraine known as the Donbas and Crimea, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko said.
Poroshenko took to Twitter Saturday to warn his 1.2 million followers that Russia wants to “turn back the wheel of history” to reverse Ukraine’s independence. The comments were made as tensions rise between Ukraine and Russia over an incident that took place last week in the Kerch Strait.
On November 25, Russia blocked three Russian navy ships from passing from the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov near the Crimean peninsula by passing through the strait. The standoff ended with Russia seizing Ukraine’s ships and detaining some Ukrainian sailors. In response, Poroshenko declared martial law in 10 Ukrainian regions that are in proximity to Russian armed forces. The Ukrainian president claims to have evidence that Russia is planning a ground invasion against his country.
The relationship between Russia and Ukraine has worsened significantly ever since a pro-Western social movement ousted a pro-Russian president almost five years ago. Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014, and military analysts say that Russia is providing support for pro-Russian separatists fighting the Ukrainian military in the eastern part of the country known as the Donbas.
Russia has claimed that its regular military forces are not stationed in the Donbas, but social media posts of Russian soldiers in the region have suggested otherwise.
On Sunday, a Kremlin spokesman said that Western leaders had listened to Russia’s description of the events in the Kerch Strait last week. Russia claims that it was Ukraine’s troops that attacked them.
“I think they could not but hear it [Russia’s perspective] because Russian President Vladimir Putin at the meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel personally showed in hand-waving terms how all this happened, how this provocation was plotted and how they tried to carry it out and how responsibly our border guards fulfilled their duty, attempting to avoid any undesirable incidents,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Russian television on Sunday, referring to conversations Putin had at the G20 Summit in Argentina this weekend.
But the media company Bellingcat, which uses open source data and social media to conduct investigations into global conflicts, determined that Ukrainian ships had attempted to flee from the Russians, but the Russians had attempted to use lethal force against the Ukrainian sailors. In intercepted Russian radio communications, the Russian soldiers discuss having pursued and shot at the Ukrainian ships.