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How many Russian soldiers are present in Crimea and on the Ukrainian borders? (v2)

(B2) The figures vary according to the sources and the scope considered. And it is very difficult to grasp exactly what Russian forces are on the Ukrainian borders. But the movements are numerous enough to worry. The slightest spark can cause the situation to get out of hand

Russian engineering competitions at the Borodinovsky training ground (credit: MOD Russia – Southern district – Archives B2)

Ambivalently, we sometimes confuse the 'stock' of Russian soldiers already present in Crimea or on the borders, with those who have just arrived for maneuvers, exercises, preparations or relief... depending on opinion

150.000 Russian soldiers according to the Ukrainians…

Ukrainian Defense Minister Andreii Taran cited the number of 110.000 men concentrated along the Ukrainian borders in the North-East [near the regions of Luhansk and Donetsk] and 42.000 men on the Crimean border during his hearing before the European Parliament (read: The Russians are massing at the borders. In the Crimea of ​​nuclear weapons denounces Andrii Taran). A figure which is a clear increase compared to the figure previously given by a spokesperson for the Ukrainian president who mentioned, in mid-April, a figure of 80.000 in total, around 40.000 in Eastern Ukraine and 40.000 in Crimea ( read on NBC).

…half confirmed at European level

A figure taken up by the High Representative Josep Borrell, this Monday, April 19 after the meeting of Foreign Ministers. " There are more than 150.000 Russian military personnel deployed with any type of material » on the Ukrainian border and in Crimea. " This is the most massive deployment we have ever seen. This situation is very worrying. We are not immune to an incident anytime », declared the head of European diplomacy after the meeting of foreign ministers. “ The risk of further escalation is obvious. NB: this figure was later denied and corrected downwards in the transcript published at the end of the day. The figure finally mentioned is that of 100.000 men.

A little less for Americans

Americans are more moderate. " According to information obtained from available sources, Russia now has more troops stationed on the Ukrainian border than at any time since 2014. Russia has moved from 15.000 to 25.000 soldiers in Crimea or closer to the Ukrainian borders. This number includes infantry, tank battalions, helicopters and air defense assets. » indicated the US charge d'affaires at the OSCE ((the organization for security and cooperation in Europe)) on Wednesday (April 14). For Crimea alone, on the basis “ statements from Russia or open sources ", they place the figure at " more than 17.000 soldiers are massed in Crimea ". In total, Russia would thus have with the troops present in the former Ukrainian peninsula, “ about 31.500 soldiers (read : The sounds of boots at the Ukrainian borders worry the Allies and the USA).

moderato cantabile

On the French side, at the Élysée, we do not want/cannot confirm the Ukrainian figure. “ There are many Russian soldiers. Too much. Which is in fact a rather dry denial of the Ukrainian figure. Moreover, we put this increase into perspective: “ this corresponds to training cycles of Russian forces continues our interlocutor just before the summit with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Paris on Friday (April 16). " The situation is very evolving. There are movements adds a European diplomat. " One day it's like this, the other it's different. "But what is certain, " there is a significant presence at the border. Too important. We are monitoring the situation with great vigilance.. " Because sometimes a conflict can arise from a spark " of more or less established causes, of a poorly understood movement. We have learned the lessons of history »

A military exercise that must end

This build-up of troops was perhaps a " military exercise at the start. But in this case, we have a mechanism within the OSCE that can be used [Editor's note: the Vienna document], by inviting observers, etc.. » All measures that lower the temperature. And " if it is a military exercise, it must end as soon as possible Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said responding to B2 after the Foreign Affairs meeting.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde, with Leonor Hubaut and Aurélie Pugnet)

To be continued: indicators of the conflict (violations of the ceasefire) and my analysis of the Russian position.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).