Russia begins military drills near Ukraine, accuses U.S. of escalating tensions

The drills reportedly short-range ballistic missile units and at least 60 fighter jets.

Updated: January 25, 2022 - 5:11pm

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Russia has launched military drills with thousands of troops and dozens of fighter jets near Ukraine, according to reports, while the Kremlin has accused the United States of escalating tensions in the region.

Moscow has placed an estimated 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border. The drills were announced after the United States on Monday placed 8,500 troops on "heightened alert" to potentially be deployed to NATO allies in eastern Europe.

The Russian military began exercises near the border and in Crimea, which was controlled by Ukraine until Russia captured the region in 2014. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reports that the flex of Russian force involves "some 6,000 troops and at least 60 fighter jets."

The drills also include short-range ballistic missile units, The New York Times states.

It is unclear how long the drills will last, but Russian news agencies say the live-fire maneuvers are part of a combat readiness check, according to RFE/RL.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov accused the United States of "escalating tensions" after the Pentagon put thousands of troops on alert to deploy. "We are observing these actions of the United States with profound concern," Peskov said.

U.S. President Joe Biden told reporters Tuesday that he has "no intention" of sending service members directly into Ukraine, but he continues to threaten Russia with severe sanctions in the case of an incursion.