Russia provides 7,000 troops to Ukraine border, regardless of claims it could withdraw some forces, U.S. says


A member of the Ukrainian State Border Guard Service is seen on the Senkivka checkpoint close to the border with Belarus and Russia within the Chernihiv area, Ukraine February 16, 2022.

Valentyn Ogirenko | Reuters

No Russian troops had been withdrawn from the border with Ukraine, a senior Biden administration official instructed reporters Wednesday evening, disputing Moscow’s declare that it was pulling again some forces.

“We now realize it was false,” the official stated, including that as many as 7,000 troops have joined the 150,000 already close to the border in latest days.

The official known as the Russian claims that it was pulling again extra forces from round Ukraine “false” and gave one of many grimmest assessments but for the potential of reaching a diplomatic answer to keep away from warfare.

“Russia retains saying it needs to pursue a diplomatic answer, their actions point out in any other case,” the official stated. “We hope they may change course earlier than beginning a warfare that may deliver catastrophic loss of life and destruction.”

The official stated further Russian troops had been arriving as not too long ago as Wednesday and Moscow might launch a false pretext to invade Ukraine at any second.

Moscow has stated it was pulling again a number of the 150,000 troops that america and its allies warn have converged round Ukraine on three sides. However with the world trying to find indicators {that a} lethal new battle on European soil is perhaps averted, days of high-stakes signaling from Russia have been met with skepticism by the West.

“We proceed to see important models shifting towards the border, not away from the border,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken instructed MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Wednesday. “There’s what Russia says after which there’s what Russia does. We’ve not seen any pullback of its forces.”

He added, “It might be good in the event that they adopted by on what they stated, however to date we have not seen it.”

In Kyiv, the place Ukraine’s leaders have sought to play down that alarm, the nation held a defiant nationwide day of unity.

In the meantime, in an obvious bid to again up its claims of a partial withdrawal, the Russian protection ministry launched video displaying a trainload of armored automobiles shifting throughout a bridge away from Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula that Moscow annexed in 2014.

That adopted the same announcement a day earlier, whereas Russian President Vladimir Putin additionally talked up the potential of a diplomatic decision to the disaster.

However leaders in Washington and Europe have urged warning, with Moscow’s intentions unclear and little element given about what number of troops had been pulling again and the place they had been headed.

Ukraine’s overseas minister, Dmytro Kuleba, tweeted Wednesday that “statements on withdrawal aren’t ample. We want transparency and details.”

NATO Secretary-Normal Jens Stoltenberg instructed reporters in Brussels that in truth Russia had “elevated the variety of troops, and extra troops are on the way in which.”

After assembly with NATO protection ministers Wednesday, Stoltenberg stated at a press convention that the alliance has not seen “any signal of de-escalation on the bottom, no withdrawals of troops or tools.”

Russia has a “large invasion power able to assault with high-end capabilities from Crimea to Belarus,” Stoltenberg stated, noting that it is the largest construct up of forces in Europe because the Chilly Battle.

NATO despatched “concrete proposals” on transparency, threat discount and arms management and has not obtained a response from Russia, he stated.

Stoltenberg described Russia’s efforts to make use of its army to “intimidate” different international locations as “the brand new regular in Europe,” which he stated has prompted protection ministers to develop choices Wednesday to strengthen NATO’s deterrence and protection. One choice, he stated, entails establishing new NATO battlegroups in central, jap and southeastern Europe.

In a joint written assertion Wednesday, NATO protection ministers stated their technique entails “further land forces” in addition to “further maritime and air property.” The ministers described the measures as “preventive, proportionate and non-escalatory.”

In the meantime, Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Fee, known as it “the biggest build-up of troops on European soil because the darkest days of the Chilly Battle.”

Like U.S. officers, she stated Russia had been “sending conflicting alerts” over what it deliberate to do subsequent.

With tensions mounting, three U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon surveillance aircrafts had shut encounters with a number of Russian jets over the Mediterranean Sea final weekend, the Pentagon stated Wednesday, including that the U.S. planes had been in worldwide waters on the time they had been intercepted.

Nobody was injured, however the intercepts had been unprofessional, stated two protection officers. Intercepts like this happen incessantly, however they’re normally deemed protected or skilled.

“We now have made our considerations recognized to Russian officers by diplomatic channels,” stated U.S. Captain Mike Kafka, a Navy spokesperson. “Whereas nobody was harm, interactions akin to these might end in miscalculations and errors that result in extra harmful outcomes.”

‘Nothing has modified’

President Joe Biden said Tuesday it was nonetheless “very a lot a risk” that Russia might invade Ukraine, warning it might additionally result in a spike in American energy prices. Whereas the U.S. is able to have interaction in diplomacy, he stated, his administration has not verified any partial drawdown of Russian troops.

Mark Galeotti, a senior affiliate fellow on the Royal United Providers Institute, a London suppose tank, stated invasion was not inevitable and that Putin would possible desire gaining concessions with out power.

However regardless of Russian claims of a partial withdrawal, “nothing has modified on the bottom in any significant approach,” Galeotti tweeted Wednesday. “Putin might have invaded yesterday, he can nonetheless achieve this tomorrow.”

Whereas the U.S. and European powers have remained adamant {that a} Russian assault is probably going inside days, Ukrainian officers and residents have taken a much more tempered tone when discussing the potential of an assault by Moscow.

Earlier this week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appeared to mock media reports that Wednesday can be the day the invasion begins. As a substitute, he introduced it could be a nationwide day of unity — with Ukrainians marking it by elevating the blue and yellow nationwide flag and enjoying the nationwide anthem.

Within the metropolis of Dnipro, lower than 120 miles from the ongoing conflict in the country’s east with Russian-backed separatists that has raged since 2014, locals took to the streets exterior metropolis corridor. Individuals in conventional gown sang a patriotic tune and cadets raised the nationwide flag. Some 200 metropolis council employees attended.

“Everyone ought to proceed working and [continue] on a regular basis life,” stated Natalya Chernyshova, 55, head of financial growth and funding on the metropolis council. “I believe that is the largest [way] to point out and to display that we aren’t afraid.”

Nevertheless, even whereas that was taking place, Ukrainian officers stated {that a} cyberattack that began Tuesday and knocked offline the web site of its protection ministry and two largest banks was the worst of its variety within the nation’s historical past.

The distributed denial of service assault carried “traces of overseas intelligence providers,” Ilya Vityuk, head of the cybersecurity division of Ukraine’s state safety service, instructed a information briefing.

Vityuk stated that Russia was the nation “fascinated about such picture strikes” towards Ukraine, however he and different officers stated they might not conclusively blame Moscow, which has denied involvement on this assault and persistently denied planning an invasion.

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