A Russian invasion of Ukraine is a 'very real possibility' as its troops mass near the border, experts warn

Russia is massing troops and military equipment near the border of Ukraine, raising fears that it may launch an invasion.

The US has shared concerns about the possibility of an invasion with allies and partners in Europe, as well as intelligence indicating that Russia is positioning forces for a possible push into Ukraine, according to a report.

These private conversations have taken place amid public demands that Russia clarify its intentions about a military build up that US officials have characterized as "unusual" and reiterated their support for Ukraine and its territorial integrity by Western countries.

Russia watchers say that concerns about Russian military activities are justified, with evidence growing that Russia is building a force that could invade Ukraine. As Russian leaders express frustration with the pro-Western leanings of the Ukrainian government, these developments come.

Jeffrey Edmonds, a former CIA military analyst and Russia expert, told Insider that he would not downplay this. The troop build up is significant.

He said that a number of tactical battalion groups are in the area outside of the normal training cycle. Russia appears to be moving troops and equipment under the cover of darkness.

Michael Kofman, the Research Program Director in the Russia Studies Program at the Center for New American Security, said in a recent interview that a lot of the troops are shifting at night so as to avoid being detected.

Russian leaders, including President Putin, have become more vocal in calling for respect to Russia's red lines.

"This is not the same as the one near Ukraine," he said. The size of the force, the amount of time it's been there, and the rhetoric from the Russians are all serious.

He said that they have put in the work so that when a decision is made, it's going to happen fast.

Kofman cautioned that there are no signs of an imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine, but said that this should provide little comfort.

I don't think there will be a Russian military operation in the next few weeks, but I am very worried about the coming months and this winter," he said.

He described recent military movements as a symptom of a military that is preparing itself for a potential invasion.

According to the head of the defense intelligence agency in Ukraine, Russia has 100,000 troops near the border and is preparing for a possible attack in late January or early February.

He suggested that a Russian attack could include airborne, amphibious, and ground force assaults.

The Ukrainians could impose some costs in a fight with Russia, but the Russians would be in a better position, according to Edmonds.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin looks through binoculars during the main stage of the Zapad 2021.

Sergei Savostyanov is a photographer.

A real possibility.

The Washington Post reported last week that the defense minister of Ukraine believes that Putin is still deciding what to do. Russia has denied any plans to invade Ukraine.

Jim Townsend, a former Pentagon and NATO official and security expert, told Insider that Putin is an "opportunist" and a "gambler."

He said that if he has the intent, he has the ability. "That's something that you can't underestimate, and that's been a problem in the past," he said, referring to the tendency of past administration's to react quickly to Russian aggression.

He said that looking at the situation near the Ukrainian border, Russia's presence in the Black Sea, and other aggressive and coercive actions, military action against the Ukraine is a very real possibility.

CNN reported Monday that the US is considering sending military advisors and new military equipment to Ukraine in order to avoid a confrontation with Russia.

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said earlier this month that they don't have clarity into Moscow's intentions.

"Our concern is that Russia may make a mistake by trying to repeat what it did in the past when it crossed into Ukrainian territory and claimed that it was provoked," the secretary said.

Russia gained unfettered access to the Black Sea in the wake of the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. Thousands of people have been killed in eastern Ukraine. A military invasion by Russia would cost more.