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Is Russia going to invade Ukraine and what does Putin want?

What does Putin want?

Russia’s Vladimir Putin has repeatedly denied planning to attack Ukraine, but the US believes he has decided to invade and is on the brink of doing so.

An estimated 150,000 Russian troops are positioned close to Ukraine’s borders. What happens next could jeopardise Europe’s entire security structure.

How serious is the threat of invasion?

For months the US said it did not think a final decision had been made, but on 18 February President Joe Biden said he believed Mr Putin had decided to attack “in the coming days”. In the words of the Czech prime minister, “Europe is a step away from war”.

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Russia is adamant it has no plans to attack Ukraine, a country of 44 million people. But it has before, in 2014 when it seized Crimea and backed a conflict in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.

  • How big is Russia’s military build-up?

Nato says everything points to a “full-fledged attack”. According to the US, Russia has moved more than 150,000 troops close to Ukraine’s borders, both in Russia and in Belarus, and 40,000 more if you include Russian-backed separatists and Crimea.

One US defence official said, “40 to 50% are in an attack position” but Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky insists there is no need to panic.

Graphic showing positioning of Russian troops. Updated 20 Feb

Russia says it has withdrawn some units as they end military exercises but drills that were meant to end in Belarus have been extended. Nato sees no sign of Russian de-escalation.

President Putin insists Russia does not want war and is ready to negotiate, agreeing with France to intensify diplomatic efforts.

But if his demands for “security guarantees” are not met, he has threatened “appropriate retaliatory military-technical measures”.

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