MOSCOW, Nov 22 (Reuters) – Russia’s SVR Foreign Intelligence Service said on Monday that the current situation around Ukraine was reminiscent of the lead-up to the war in Georgia in 2008, the Interfax news agency reported.
The Russian rouble fell on the comment, which comes amid concern by Ukraine, the United States and NATO over Russian troop movements near Ukraine. Moscow has dismissed reports that it might be poised to attack Ukraine as inflammatory.
Russia comprehensively defeated Georgia in a short war in 2008 and around one-fifth of Georgia’s territory remains garrisoned by Russian troops.
Referring to the current tensions in Ukraine, the SVR said: “We observed a similar situation in Georgia ahead of the events in 2008.”
It said Georgia’s then-president Mikheil Saakashvili had “paid a high price” in that war.
The Kremlin said on Monday it was alarmed by a U.S.-backed push to supply Ukraine with sophisticated weapons, but said U.S. media outlets that have suggested Russia is poised to attack Ukraine are being used in a disinformation campaign.
The head of Ukraine’s military intelligence told the Military Times outlet this weekend that Russia had more than 92,000 troops massed around Ukraine’s borders and was preparing for an attack by the end of January or beginning of February.
Kyrylo Budanov said such an attack would probably involve air strikes, artillery and armoured attacks followed by airborne assaults in the east, amphibious assaults in Odessa and Mariupol, and a smaller incursion through Belarus.
Similar warnings, often sourced to unnamed people familiar with the matter, have appeared in some U.S. media and the United States, NATO and Ukraine have raised concerns about Russian troops movements near Ukraine in recent weeks.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed the idea of a possible Russian attack and said that Moscow itself was being targeted in a disinformation campaign.
Photo – Ukrainian border guards stands on a Russia – Ukraine border near of Goptivka village, about 35 km of Kharkiv, Ukraine. EPA/SERGEY KOZLOV