Russia is allegedly planing to invade Ukraine in the new year, with up to 175,000 troops taking part in the operation, the Washington Post has claimed, citing US intelligence papers and a customary unnamed official.
"The Russian plans call for a military offensive against Ukraine as soon as early 2022," an anonymous Biden administration official, who may or may not exist, claimed.
The alleged operation is going to involve the "extensive movement of 100 battalion tactical groups with an estimated 175,000 personnel, along with armor, artillery, and equipment," the alleged source said.
The assessments have been partially based on satellite images that "show newly arrived units at various locations along the Ukrainian border over the last month," they added.
Intelligence papers apparently seen by the Washington Post said there were currently 50 Russian battlefield tactical groups with tanks and artillery deployed in four locations not far from the Ukrainian border. Two of Russians five military districts are on this frontier.
According to the official, the military operation is being preceded by a propaganda campaign, for which no evidence is offered. "Russian influence proxies and media outlets have started to increase content denigrating Ukraine and NATO," they insisted, in order to blame the outbreak of any potential conflict on Kiev.
The US administration has been mulling the possibility of a Russian "invasion" of Eastern Ukraine since last month, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken warning Moscow there would be "serious consequences" if it made such move.
Russia has rejected the accusations, saying it had no plans to attack anybody and blaming Washington for stirring up "hysteria."
However, Moscow has expressed grave concerns about any escalation in the ongoing internal conflict in Ukraine, saying the West had been "encouraging" Kiev to use force against the self-proclaimed republics in Donbass through NATO's buildup in Eastern Europe.
The Washington Post's story comes ahead of next week's virtual meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart, Joe Biden.
Biden said on Friday that there would be "a long discussion" of the situation in Ukraine during the meeting, adding that he wouldn't accept the imposition of any Russian "red lines."
Earlier this week, Putin reasserted the Russian view that NATO's further eastward expansion was unacceptable for Moscow. He said he wanted "legal guarantees" from the US-led bloc that it would stops encroaching on Russia's borders and refrain from deploying "threatening weapons" in the region.