Officials from the United States and Europe are watching new movements of Russian troops near the Ukraine border with concern, The Washington Post reported.
The movements come as Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared a "red line" on further NATO military expansion of installations in Ukraine.
"The point is: It is not a drill," CNA's director of the Russia studies Michael Kofman told the Post. "It doesn't appear to be a training exercise. Something is happening. What is it?"
Social media has shown Russian military trains and convoys moving tanks and missiles in southern and western Russia, according to the report.
After training exercises, Russia's 41st Combined Arms Army did not return to its home Siberian city of Novosibirsk, but instead joined other Russian forces near the Ukrainian border, and Russia's elite 1st Guards Tank Army is moving equipment and forces toward Ukraine, Kofman told the Post, citing satellite imagery.
"I think you have to step back and look at this past year holistically, and if you do, you will know that the Russian tone and messaging on Ukraine has changed dramatically," he added to the paper.
"It appears that Russia is shifting the goal post of what is acceptable."
Ukraine's national security and defense council secretary Oleksiy Danilov estimated 80,000-90,000 Russian troops deployed near the Ukraine border and tens of thousands stationed in Crimea, according to the Post.
Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused Ukraine of plotting to retake the Donbas region by force.
"When the Ukrainian army feels the need to defend its land, it does so, and it will further act under this principle," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday. "We are not mounting an offensive, we are just responding."
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba added Russia is "actively spreading fakes about Ukraine allegedly preparing an offensive or other nonsense. For the record, Ukraine does not prepare any offensive in the Donbas."
The U.S. added in a statement, "Official Russian rhetoric suggesting Ukraine is aggravating the situation is not only misleading, it serves to escalate tensions."
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