Supporters of Ukraine gathered on the Charles Bridge in Prague on Saturday to show their allegiance with the country during heightened tensions with Russia.
More than 100 people joined the rally, singing and chanting as they held a large Ukrainian flag that partially spanned the bridge.
An estimated 100,000 Russian troops are massed near Ukraine, which many fear is Moscow preparing for an invasion, which Russia denies.
On Saturday, January 22, Russia has sent troops more than 6,000 kilometers to Ukraine’s borders and announced sweeping naval drills as Moscow expands its preparations for a potential attack on Ukraine as negotiations appear at a deadlock.
Six Russian landing ships capable of carrying main battle tanks, troops and other military vehicles travelled through the Channel en route to the Mediterranean last week in a deployment that could bolster an amphibious landing on Ukraine’s southern coast if Vladimir Putin orders an attack.
Ukraine’s military intelligence has claimed that Russia is hiring mercenaries and supplying its proxy forces in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions with fuel, tanks and self-propelled artillery in preparation for a potential upsurge in fighting.
And a large military force, including Iskander short-range ballistic missiles, elite spetsnaz troops and anti-aircraft batteries, has arrived in Belarus from Russia’s eastern military district, an extraordinary deployment that western officials and analysts say could enable Moscow to threaten Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital.
The new deployments have worried US officials. “What concerns us is the total picture,” said a senior state department official in a briefing last week. “It is the amassing of 100,000 troops along Ukraine’s borders combined with moving forces into Belarus over the weekend … these numbers are beyond, of course, what we would expect with regard to a normal exercise.”
The new forces in Belarus, the official added, represent an “increased capability for Russia to launch this attack, increased opportunity, increased avenues, increased routes”.
The US president, Joe Biden, last week said that Putin himself may not know what he plans to do. But the results are either reckless brinkmanship or preparations for a large-scale military operation.
Diplomatic efforts last week were inconclusive. The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, called talks with US secretary of state Antony Blinken “frank and substantive”.