Russian President Vladimir Putin is showing telltale signs that he intends to extend his control over Ukraine and perhaps elsewhere in Eastern Europe, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers said Sunday.
Beyond assembling military armor and tens of thousands of troops along the Russia-Ukraine border, Putin is moving troops in northern Georgia and planting intelligence officers in Ukraine, the Michigan Republican told “Fox News Sunday.”
He said Russian troops in the northern region of Georgia, known as South Ossetia, are on the move, perhaps to go into Armenia or toward the Baltic Sea.
“There’s no way I’d take this as any other way than [Putin] is working for a land bridge,” Rogers said.
He said the Russian president also is engaged in a more “covert operation” by sending intelligence officers and special forces into eastern Ukraine to try to convince citizens to allow Russia to annex their country, like Putin did with Ukraine’s Crimea region earlier this month.
Russian officials have argued they are only trying to protect their interests in Ukraine amid months of political turmoil that resulted in the ouster of that country’s Moscow-backed president several weeks ago.
They have also said the troop buildup along the Ukraine border is part of routine military exercises.
However, Rogers says the real concern is the kind of buildup, which includes heavy armor as well as light and heavy infantry.
Rogers says he has no way of knowing Putin’s exact intentions and is basing his analysis on how he has acted in the past.
Besides annexing Crimea, Putin sent troop into Ossetia in 2008 to take control of the region.