A Russian tank fires during an exercise near the country's border with Ukraine in December (Picture: Russian MOD).

A Russian tank fires during an exercise near the country's border with Ukraine (Picture: Russian MOD).
Russia

Russia planning Ukraine invasion, US intelligence finds

It comes after US President Joe Biden pledged to make it "very, very difficult" for Russia to take military action in Ukraine.

A Russian tank fires during an exercise near the country's border with Ukraine in December (Picture: Russian MOD).

A Russian tank fires during an exercise near the country's border with Ukraine (Picture: Russian MOD).

US intelligence has found that Russia has started planning for a possible military offensive against Ukraine, which could begin as soon as January 2022.

The discovery estimates Moscow is planning to use 175,000 troops – almost half are already deployed along different parts of the country's border with Ukraine, according to a US official.

The official added that the plans call for the movement of 100 battalion tactical groups along with armour, artillery and equipment.

It comes as Russia has escalated its demands on American president Joe Biden to guarantee Ukraine will not be allowed to join NATO.

On Friday, Mr Biden pledged to make it "very, very difficult" for Russian leader Vladimir Putin to take military action in Ukraine.

US intelligence officials have witnessed a build-up of Russian propaganda, using proxies and media to disparage Ukraine and NATO ahead of a potential invasion, the White House official added.

Watch: NATO chief – 'Serious consequences for Russia if they use force against Ukraine.

Asked about the intelligence finding as he set out for the presidential retreat at Camp David on Friday evening, Mr Biden reiterated his concerns about Russian provocations.

"We've been aware of Russia's actions for a long time and my expectation is we're going to have a long discussion with Putin," he said.

US officials and former diplomats say despite groundwork being laid for a possible Russian invasion, Ukraine's military is better armed and prepared today than previously and the sanctions threatened by the West would do serious damage to Russia's economy.

It remains unclear if Mr Putin intends to go through with what would be a risky offensive, they say.