How many troops has Russia sent into invasion of Ukraine?
Estimates of the total number of Russian forces involved in the invasion of Ukraine vary but around 150,000 troops are thought to be deployed in total.
Vladimir Putin on Thursday ushered in what EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell termed “the darkest hours of Europe since the Second World War” as the Russian president launched an attack on Ukraine. Putin said the military operation in Ukraine's Donbas region, which contains the rebel-held separatist zones of Donetsk and Luhansk, was mounted in response to western intransigence over security demands, leading to the deployment of Russian troops in what Putin described as a peace-keeping operation to protect civilians in the two Kremlin-backed breakaway regions. “And for this we will strive for the demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine” the Russian president said in a televised address, adding that any attempts by foreign powers to intervene in Moscow’s designs would be met with “consequences you have never seen,” a thinly veiled reminder to NATO and the United States of Russia’s nuclear capability.
US rules out military intervention in Ukraine
US President Joe Biden has ruled out military intervention in Ukraine, noting that American boots on the ground in direct confrontation with Russia could signify the start of “a world war.”
However, Biden has reiterated US commitment to safeguarding NATO territory, and has sent military hardware to Ukraine to aid in the defence of the country - which is an Enhanced Opportunities Partner of the alliance but crucially not a full NATO member - as well as providing “training, advice and intelligence.”
"The United States will defend every inch of NATO territory with the full force of American power. An attack against one NATO country is an attack against all of us. And the United States commitment to Article 5 is sacrosanct.,” Biden said on 15 February.
NATO member nations Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have already started to receive the first consignments of personnel and materiel promised by Biden in the wake of the Ukraine crisis. An undisclosed number of US F-35 fighters landed Thursday afternoon at NATO’s air base in Amari, near Estonia’s capital Tallinn, Estonian media reported. F-35s were reported to have arrived also at NATO’s air base in Lithuania.
On Wednesday evening, the first 40 American soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade arrived in Latvia along with 20 Apache attack helicopters, Latvian media reported.
How many Russian troops are deployed in Ukraine?
Estimates of Russian troop numbers in Ukraine have ranged from anywhere between 100,000 and 200,000 in recent weeks.
Ukraine's defence minister, Oleksiy Reznikov has put Russian forces surrounding the country at 149,000, while President Volodymyr Zelenskiy estimated the figure at around 200,000, in addition to thousands of combat vehicles, which include an estimated 2,840 battle tanks, outnumbering Ukraine’s armoured capability by three to one.
Reznikov’s estimate is in line with US calculations of around 150,000 Russian troops massed on Ukraine’s borders before the invasion began on Thursday. Russia keeps a static border presence of around 35,000 military personnel on the Ukraine frontier, from a total standing army – the Russian Ground Forces - of 280,000 active duty personnel. Overall, Russia maintains the fifth-largest armed forces in the world, with over one million active personnel and two million reservists split between the various branches, which includes air force, navy, space forces, strategic missile forces, airborne and special operations forces.
However, US intelligence believes that the bulk of the Russian forces around Ukraine – which depending on the accuracy of estimates represent some 50-60% of the total strength of the Russian Ground Forces – will not be involved in the initial phases of the attack. The US stated that Russia's invasion is designed to decapitate Ukraine's government: one of the three main axes of assault is directed at the capital Kyiv, a senior US defense official said.
"It is our assessment that they have every intention of basically decapitating the government and installing their own method of governance, which would explain these early moves.”
Reports on Thursday of Ukrainian forces engaged with advance units of paratroopers at the strategic Hostomel airport outside Kyiv bear out the US
How will Ukraine respond to the Russian invasion?
“What we have heard today are not just missile blasts, fighting and the rumble of aircraft. This is the sound of a new iron curtain, which has come down and is closing Russia off from the civilised world,” Zelenskiy said after the invasion was launched. “Our national task is to make sure this curtain does not fall across our land.”
Ukraine has 44 million inhabitants, but in terms of land mass is Europe's biggest country after Russia itself, lending credence to Putin’s assertion that he has no intention of permanently occupying Ukraine.
Ukraine's ambassador to the United States Oksana Markarova said that the Ukrainian military was fighting back against a Russian invasion and that "all Ukrainians" would resist the assault.
“Now Ukraine has activated our right to self-defence in accordance with international law,” she told reporters in Washington. “The combat spirit of Ukrainian military is high. We are fighting, we will be fighting - not only our brave and motivated military but all Ukrainians.”
Reznikov echoed Markarova’s comments on Thursday when he said that anyone who is ready and able to hold a weapon can join the ranks of the territorial defence forces, as the police said they would distribute weapons to veterans.
Ukraine’s military forces total 215,000 active personnel (of which 125,000 make up the permanent army) and 220,000 reservists, a figure that rises to almost 900,000 taking into account veterans and volunteer defence forces. Paramilitary security forces – the border guards and the National Guard – potentially add another 113,000 trained personnel to Ukraine’s defensive capabilities.