Satellite photos of Russia's military bases & Putin's Ukraine obsession
After Ukraine's Orange Revolution in the winter of 2004, Putin had waged natural gas wars against the country destabilising it economically.
Russian military vehicles
Satellite photos show military vehicles stationed at Klintsky training camp in Russia on December 21.
After Ukraine's Orange Revolution that broke out in the winter of 2004, Putin had waged natural gas wars against the country, destabilising it economically.
Then he made a military move in 2014, by taking Crimea and supporting pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine.
Russian military vehicles stationed at Pognovo Camp, in Voronezh, Russia on October 25, 2021.
As far back as 2008, according to Russian and US media, Putin told his then US counterpart George W. Bush that "Ukraine is not even a country."
During his end-of-year press conference in December, Putin again raised eyebrows by saying Ukraine was "created" by Vladimir Lenin, the founder of the former Soviet Union.
Military vehicles stationed in Novozernoe, Crimea on September 9, 2021.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has an obsession that is so close and yet so far: to return Ukraine to Moscow's fold, in the name of Russia's greatness.
For many Russians of his generation, who were raised on Soviet propaganda, the USSR disintegrating and its spheres of influences vanishing in just three years remains an open wound.
For Putin, a KGB officer based in East Germany at the time the Soviet Union was gradually collapsing between 1989 and 1991, this was a personal defeat.
Pognovo camp in Voronezh
Russian military vehicles stationed at Pognovo camp in Voronezh, Russia on December 12, 2021.
The Russian leader has said many times that he suffered the same misery as his compatriots when the Soviet empire crumbled, most recently claiming he was forced to drive a taxi to make ends meet when he returned to his homeland.
For many Russians, the years after the Soviet collapse were marked by humiliation and poverty -- a stark contrast to the West's triumphalism and prosperity at the time.
Putin has claimed that the end of the Soviet Union was the "greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century" -- despite Russia living through two world wars.
Observers say his sense for revenge deepened when NATO and the EU expanded into countries once dominated by Moscow.
Opuk training ground, near Kerch
Russian military vehicles stationed Opuk training ground, near Kerch, Crimea on December 7, 2021.
Observers say Putin's sense for revenge deepened when NATO and the EU expanded into countries once dominated by Moscow.
Putin has since made it his historical mission to stop this advance in what he believes should be Russia's region of influence.
For the longtime Russian leader, any move towards bringing Ukraine into Western alliances is a red line.
Russian military base
Russian military vehicles stationed in Novozernoe, Crimea, on December 23, 2021.
Recent rhetoric from Putin has criticised Ukraine for presenting itself as a victim of Tsarist and Soviet imperialism.
And, he says, two Ukrainian revolutions -- in 2005 and 2014 -- that drove out pro-Russia elites were the result of a Western plot.
Born into a working class Saint Petersburg family, Putin said in 2015 that "if a fight is inevitable, you must strike first."
Russian military base
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned on a trip to Kyiv on Tuesday that Russian forces massed on the border represented a "clear and present danger" to Ukraine.
"We see large numbers of troops massing, we see preparations for all kinds of operations that are consistent with an imminent military campaign," Johnson said at a press conference with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky.
"Our view is that time is urgent and this is something that needs to be addressed now."
Johnson urged Russia to pull back troops and choose diplomacy, warning that any invasion would be a "disaster."
"It is vital that Russia steps back and chooses a path of diplomacy, and I believe that is still possible," he said.
Russian military base
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced plans to add 100,000 personnel to the armed forces over three years and end obligatory service, as tensions soar with Russia.
But Zelensky insisted the move -- part of a drive to modernise the 250,000-strong military -- did not mean a large-scale invasion by Moscow was imminent amid fears over a massive buildup of Russia troops at Ukraine's borders.
Ukraine's armed forces have undergone major improvements since Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula without a fight in 2014 and began fuelling a separatist conflict that has cost more than 13,000 lives.
Zelensky signed a decree to add 100,000 personnel over the next three years, create 20 new brigades and improve the pay and living conditions for servicemen.
He also ordered the government to draft legislation to end obligatory military service for young men by 2024 as Kyiv looks to professionalise its forces.