NOVI YARYLOVYCHI BORDER CROSSING, Ukraine — On the other side of this border in northern Ukraine, not visible through the thick pine and birch forests that crowd the E-95 highway but noticeable to passing truckers, a force is gathering in Belarus more potent than anything seen in the country since the fall of the Soviet Union, officials and military analysts say.

Russia has deployed tanks and artillery, fighter jets and helicopters, advanced rocket systems and troops by the thousands all across Belarus, augmenting a fighting force that will soon envelope Ukraine like a horseshoe on three sides. Russia says the troops have deployed for military exercises scheduled to commence next month, but the buildup in Belarus could presage an attack from a new vector, one in proximity to Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.

With much of Ukraine’s military might concentrated in the country’s east — where a war with Russian-backed separatists has raged for eight years — military analysts and Ukraine’s own generals say it will be difficult for the country to muster the forces necessary to defend its northern border.

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“As a result of Russia taking control over Belarus, 1,070 kilometers of our border with Belarus became a threat,” said Oleksii Reznikov, Ukraine’s defense minister, referring to a distance of about 665 miles. “This is not a threat from Belarus — Ukraine has a very warm attitude toward the Belarusian people — but a threat from Russia moving through Belarus.”

The Novi Yarylovychi border crossing is a fast, 140-mile drive straight from the Belarus border south to Kyiv on a highway that is mostly freshly paved thanks to efforts by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to address the poor state of Ukrainian roads. It would be an easy ride for any Russian tank driver so long as Russian forces take out Ukrainian air power and artillery first and the Javelin anti-tank missiles provided to the Ukrainian military by the United States stay deployed in eastern Ukraine.

On the Ukrainian side of the border, preparations to repel a potential military incursion are largely nonexistent. Last fall, Ukraine deployed 8,500 troops to its northern border, a mix of border police, national guard forces and military that was mostly directed at preventing Belarus from sending Middle Eastern migrants over the border the way it had in Poland and Lithuania.

Although that force remains in the border region, its members have left the vicinity of Novi Yarylovychi. There is now just a handful of border guards, armed with automatic rifles, stationed at the post — little deterrence should a Russian tank unit make a sudden thrust toward the capital. A truck driver ferrying candle wax who had just crossed into Ukraine and would give only his first name, Yevgeni, said he had seen columns of military vehicles including armored personnel carriers with license plates indicating they had come from the Ryazan region southeast of Moscow.

“There are kilometer-long columns there, escorted by police,” he said.

Indeed, new troops, armor and equipment have been pouring into Belarus daily. News reports from within Belarus have shown local officials flanked by Belarusian women in traditional dress, greeting Russian military commanders with loaves of bread and salt, a traditional welcome.

Russia is deploying some of its most advanced and well-equipped forces to nine different bases and airfields around Belarus, the Russian Defense Ministry says. Already, highly trained special forces units and airborne troops, together with powerful S-400 anti-aircraft systems and hundreds of aircraft, have begun to arrive at bases around the country, Ukrainian and western officials say.

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