Biden: Russian threat to invade Ukraine still ‘very high’
Fears of a new war in Europe resurfaced on Thursday when US President Joe Biden warned that Russia could invade Ukraine within days, and violence escalated into a long standoff in eastern Ukraine. which some say could spark a wider conflict.
World dignitaries raced to find solutions, but suspicions between East and West only grew, as NATO allies dismissed Russian claims that it was withdrawing troops from exercises that had fueled fears of an attack. Russia is said to have built up some 150,000 military forces around Ukraine’s borders.
Concerns have grown in the West about what exactly Russia is doing with these troops, which comprised around 60% of all Russian ground forces. The Kremlin insists it has no intention of invading, but it has long viewed Ukraine as part of its sphere of influence and NATO’s eastward expansion as an existential threat.
The US government has issued some of its clearest and most detailed warnings yet of what could happen next.
Speaking before the UN Security Council, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken revealed some US intelligence findings in a strategy the US and Britain hoped would expose and prevent any invasion planning. The United States has refused to reveal much of the evidence underlying its claims.
He told diplomats that a sudden, seemingly violent event, staged by Russia to justify the invasion, would kick things off. Blinken mentioned a “so-called terrorist attack” inside Russia, a staged drone strike, “a fake, if not a real attack…using chemical weapons.” The assault would begin with cyberattacks, as well as missiles and bombs across Ukraine, he said. Painting more of the American picture, Blinken described the entry of Russian troops, advancing on Kiev, a city of nearly 3 million people, and other key targets.
US intelligence has indicated that Russia will also target “specific groups” of Ukrainians, Blinken said, again without giving details.
In an implied nod to Secretary of State Colin Powell’s appearance before the Security Council in 2003, when he cited unsubstantiated and false US intelligence to justify the US invasion of Iraq, Blinken said added: “Let me be clear. I am not here today to start a war, but to prevent it. Biden’s own comments on the Russian threat were unusually dire.
Speaking at the White House, he said Washington saw no signs of a promised Russian withdrawal, and said the threat of invasion remained “very high” because Russia had moved more troops to the border with Ukraine instead of withdrawing them.
“Every indication we have is that they are ready to enter Ukraine, attack Ukraine,” Biden told reporters. He said the United States had “reason to believe” that Russia was “engaged in a false flag operation for an excuse to enter” but did not provide details.
The White House said Biden plans to speak by phone Friday with transatlantic leaders about Russia’s military buildup and continued deterrence and diplomacy efforts.
US and European officials were on high alert for any Russian attempt to create a pretext for the invasion, according to a Western official familiar with intelligence findings. Ukrainian government officials shared intelligence with allies suggesting the Russians may attempt to bomb the Luhansk region in the disputed Donbas region on Friday morning as part of an effort to create a false reason to take action military, according to the official who was not authorized to comment publicly.
Renewed fear of an invasion has put global financial markets on edge. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell nearly 600 points, or 1.7%. More than 85% of stocks in the benchmark S&P 500 were in the red.
Even without an attack, Russia’s sustained pressure on Ukraine has further hampered its faltering economy and left an entire nation under constant pressure. Eastern Ukraine has already been the scene of fighting since 2014 that has claimed 14,000 lives, and tensions soared again on Thursday.
Separatist authorities in the Lugansk region have reported an increase in Ukrainian government shelling along the strained line of contact. Separatist official Rodion Miroshnik said rebel forces retaliated.
Ukraine disputed that claim, saying the separatists shelled its forces but did not return fire. Ukraine’s military command said shells hit a kindergarten in Stanytsia Luhanska, wounding two teachers and knocking out electricity to half the town.
The head of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe monitoring mission, Yasar Halit Cevik, said he reported 500 explosions along the line of contact from Wednesday night to Thursday. Cevik told the Security Council that tensions appeared to ease by then, with around 30 explosions reported.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tweeted that the bombing of the kindergarten “by pro-Russian forces is a big provocation”. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov similarly replied: “We have repeatedly warned that the excessive concentration of Ukrainian armed forces in the immediate vicinity of the demarcation line, combined with possible provocations, could constitute a terrible danger”. A 2015 deal brokered by France and Germany helped end the worst of the fighting, but regular skirmishes have continued and a political settlement has stalled.
(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)