Moscow has deployed nearly 10,000 troops to the border with Ukraine, The Guardian reports on Friday, just days ahead of a planned Sunday referendum in Crimea and amid escalating tensions with the U.S. and the EU.
The Russian troop deployment comes as the U.S. beefs up its military role with Russia's neighbors, including Poland and key Baltic states, in what some are calling a "containment strategy" reminiscent of the Cold War. NATO announced Monday it will begin flying reconnaissance aircraft over Poland and Romania to 'monitor' the situation in Ukraine.
The U.S. and EU have threatened Russia with new sanctions if the Crimea referendum moves forward.
Meanwhile, Ukraine's interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk is cultivating Western aid by promising sweeping austerity measures in return for financial assistance. An aid package from the United States is currently held up by a fight in Congress over whether up to $1 billion in loan guarantees should be tied to IMF reforms.
In a meeting with President Obama in Washington on Wednesday, Yatsenyuk reportedly stated, "We fight for our sovereignty, and we will never surrender. According to CNN, he later added that Ukraine "is and will be a part of the Western world" but still a "good friend and partner of Russia."