The Journal Gazette
 
 
Wednesday, January 26, 2022 1:00 am

Ukraine: Invasion not imminent

Leaders urge calm as US arms arrive; Russian troops drill

Associated Press

KYIV, Ukraine – Ukraine's leaders sought Tuesday to reassure the nation that an invasion from neighboring Russia was not imminent, even as they acknowledged the threat is real and received a shipment of U.S. military equipment to shore up their defenses.

Moscow has denied it is planning an assault, but it has massed an estimated 100,000 troops near Ukraine in recent weeks and is holding military drills at multiple locations in Russia. That has led the United States and its NATO allies to rush to prepare for a possible war.

President Joe Biden told reporters that Russian President Vladimir Putin “continues to build forces along Ukraine's border,” and an attack “would be the largest invasion since World War II. It would change the world.”

Several rounds of high stakes diplomacy have failed to yield any breakthroughs, and tensions escalated further this week. NATO said it was bolstering its deterrence in the Baltic Sea region, and the U.S. ordered 8,500 troops on higher alert for potential deployment to Europe as part of an alliance “response force” if necessary. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also said he is prepared to send troops to protect NATO allies in Europe.

“We have no intention of putting American forces or NATO forces in Ukraine,” Biden said, adding that there would be serious economic consequences for Putin, including personal sanctions, in the event of an invasion.

In a show of European unity in Berlin, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron called for an easing of the crisis.

Scholz said he wanted “clear steps from Russia that will contribute to a de-escalation of the situation.” Macron, who said he would talk to Putin by phone Friday, added: “If there is aggression, there will be retaliation and the cost will be very high.”

The U.S. and its allies have threatened sanctions like never before if Moscow sends its military into Ukraine, but they have given few details, saying it's best to keep Putin guessing.

The U.S. State Department has ordered the families of all American personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv to leave the country, and it said that nonessential embassy staff could leave. Britain said it, too, was withdrawing some diplomats and dependents from its embassy, and families of Canadian diplomatic staff also have been told to leave.

Ukrainian authorities, however, have sought to project calm. Speaking in the second televised speech to the nation in as many days, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged Ukrainians not to panic.

The decision by the U.S., Britain, Australia, Germany and Canada to withdraw some diplomats and dependents from Kyiv “doesn't necessarily signal an inevitable escalation and is part of a complex diplomatic game,” he said. “We are working together with our partners as a single team.”

Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told parliament that “as of today, there are no grounds to believe” Russia will invade imminently, noting that its troops have not formed what he called a battle group to force its way over the border.

“Don't worry, sleep well,” he said. “No need to have your bags packed.”

In an interview late Monday, however, he acknowledged “risky scenarios” are possible.

Russia has said Western accusations that it is planning an attack are merely a cover for NATO's own planned provocations. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov again accused the U.S. of “fomenting tensions” around Ukraine, a former Soviet state that has been in a conflict with Russia for almost eight years.

Moscow has rejected Western demands to pull its troops back from areas near Ukraine, saying it will deploy and train them wherever necessary on its territory as a response to what it called “hostile” moves by the U.S. and its allies.

Thousands of troops from Russia's Southern and Western Military Districts took part Tuesday in readiness drills in those regions in maneuvers involving Iskander missiles and dozens of warplanes.

In 2014, following the ouster of a Kremlin-friendly president in Kyiv, Moscow annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and threw its weight behind a separatist insurgency in the country's eastern industrial heartland. Fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed rebels has killed over 14,000 people, and efforts to reach a settlement have stalled.

In the latest standoff, Russia wants guarantees from the West that NATO will never admit Ukraine as a member and that the alliance would curtail other actions, such as stationing troops in former Soviet bloc countries.


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