He argues that Russia is unlikely to launch a ground attack because Ukrainian forces have the advantage and that it is even more unlikely to try another provocation at sea given the overwhelmingly negative reaction of the Western powers to the Kerch incident. Instead, he suggests, Moscow is likely to use airpower to try to undermine Ukrainian self-confidence.
Moscow’s best option and the one it is likely to continue to use is low intensity conflict, Starikov continues. “I do not see a basis for Russia to begin a broad attack on Ukraine. Land operations from their side are also improbable. But our military must remain at the ready. I personally support the beginning of active military actions.”
“If the Russian Federation renews the active phase of military actions in the Donbass,” he says, “Ukraine will win. Plus in this case, the international community will not be able to keep quiet. War now doesn’t work to Russia’s advantage … I think the next provocation of Russia will be in the air. There have already been land and sea variants.”
Starikov does not specify what such a provocation from the air might look like, but the obvious possibility is that the Moscow-backed forces in the Donbass might be given Russian planes with markers removed and bomb or strafe Ukrainian units or even military bases. That would be a high risk action, but Putin, as many have observed, may now be going for broke.
KIEV (Reuters) - Russia has been ramping up its forces near the border with Ukraine since August and now poses the greatest military threat since 2014, the year Moscow annexed Crimea, the commander of Ukraine’s armed forces told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday.
They had more than doubled to 250 from 93 machines within the space of two weeks from mid September to Oct 1.
For Muzhenko this is evidence of a concerted build-up of Russian forces in the run-up to Nov. 25, when Russia fired on and captured three Ukrainian vessels at the Kerch Strait, an action Kiev’s leadership fears may be a precursor to a full-scale invasion.
Muzhenko said Russian troop levels were at “the highest” since 2014, when Moscow annexed Crimea and then deployed forces to eastern Ukraine.
“In front of us is an aggressor who has no legal, moral or any other limits,” he said. “It is very difficult to predict when it will occur to him to begin active combat actions against Ukraine.”
“This (the Kerch Strait incident) was an act of aggression from regular forces, the border service (of the Russian Federation) in relation to the Ukrainian armed forces,” Muzhenko said.