Russia positions helicopters, possible sign of Ukrainian plans

A few weeks later, Mr. Poutine withdrew some 10,000 soldiers near Ukraine. But U.S. officials said those troops were not part of the force Mr Putin appeared to be assembling for a potential invasion in January or February.

Still, intelligence officials believed there would be more troop build-up throughout December. A senior administration official said Russian deployments were continuing, but at a slower pace than in early December.

Currently, Russia has just under 60 battle groups of battalions on the ground, or between 85,000 and 100,000 troops, according to US officials. These troops have conducted drills and drills, demonstrating that Russian forces are at their highest level of readiness.

In addition to building up aviation assets, the Russian government has ordered more specialist logistics units. While aviation assets would be essential to protect ground troops during the invasion, logistics units would be needed to support ground forces in the event Mr. Putin ordered his forces to cross the border.

More than 150 US military advisers are in Ukraine, trainers who have worked for years on the training ground near Lviv in the west of the country, far from the front lines. The current group includes Special Operations Forces, primarily Army Green Berets, as well as National Guard trainers from the 53rd Florida Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

Military advisers from a dozen allied countries are also in Ukraine, US officials said. Several NATO countries, including Britain, Canada, Lithuania and Poland, have regularly sent training forces to the country.

In the event of a large-scale Russian invasion, the United States intends to quickly move its military trainers out of the country. But it is possible that some Americans will stay to advise Ukrainian officials in the capital Kiev, or provide frontline support, a US official said.

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