Russian troops in more than 100 makeshift bases near the border with Ukraine are in an advanced state of readiness and could invade within 12 hours of getting orders from the Kremlin, NATO warns. A spokesman for the alliance says the huge Russian force seen in satellite images "can move very quickly" if ordered to, though it's not clear whether it will, the Wall Street Journal reports. "Threat is capability and intent," the spokesman says. "Undoubtedly there is capability here. We are unsure of the Russian intent." More:
- Russia says the images NATO unveiled yesterday show military exercises from last summer, but NATO says this is "deliberate misinformation" from Moscow. The images are from late March and early April, NATO says—and there is no sign of any military exercises taking place. The troops are "not training, but ready for combat," NATO's chief says.
- Whatever Moscow's intent, NATO warns that the tens of thousands of troops across the border are already having a destabilizing effect on Ukraine, the Guardian finds. "These masked guys would not be taking over government buildings if there were not 40,000 soldiers just across the border," a senior NATO official says.
- In eastern Ukraine, where the 48-hour deadline for separatists to leave government buildings is rapidly approaching, acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk will visit the city of Donetsk today in an attempt to defuse tensions, the BBC reports. Pro-Russia activists have declared the city a "people's republic."
- The dispute over Ukraine's gas bill is also heating up, reports Reuters. Russia recently hiked the price of natural gas it sells to Ukraine by 40%, and Vladimir Putin warns that the supply may soon be cut off if Kiev doesn't cough up $2.2 billion to settle its bill—and that the move could affect gas deliveries to European Union countries. A US State Department spokesman slammed Moscow's "efforts to use energy as a tool of coercion against Ukraine."
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