Putin To Make Demands As Intelligence Points To Ukraine Invasion

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A US intelligence report indicated that Russia may plot to invade Ukraine as soon as next month.

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MOSCOW (AP) – The Kremlin said Friday that President Vladimir Putin will seek binding guarantees to halt NATO expansion in Ukraine during a planned meeting with the US president. Joe Biden, while a US intelligence report and the Ukrainian defense minister warned of a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine as soon as next month.

With tensions rising between Russia and the West, Biden said his administration was “putting together the most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives to make it very, very difficult for Mr. . He can” in the position of troops near Ukraine.

The NATO chief and several former US diplomats and security officials say Russia’s demand that Biden denies NATO membership to Ukraine, a former Soviet republic eager to cooperate with the West, is a nonstarter.

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“There is no way in the world that the Russian position will make any progress,” John Herbst, the former US ambassador to Ukraine, said on Friday. “It’s basically a rhetorical point for Moscow.” More likely, he said, were US assurances that Western military aid to Ukraine would be for defensive purposes only.

Ukraine, the United States and other Western allies are concerned that a Russian military build-up near the Ukrainian border could signal an intention to invade Moscow. Officials say it is unclear whether Putin intends to invade or is making threats in hopes of forcing concessions from Ukraine and its Western allies. The US has threatened the Kremlin with the toughest sanctions if it attacks, while Russia has warned that any presence of NATO troops and weapons on Ukrainian soil will cross the “red line”.

Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov told lawmakers on Friday that the number of Russian troops near Ukraine and in Russian-annexed Crimea is estimated to be 94,300, warning that a “massive increase” is possible in January.

An unclassified US intelligence report made public later on Friday cited recent artillery, troop and material activities near the border with Ukraine, saying Russia would launch a military attack with 175,000 troops early next year. was planning the possibility.

“The plans include the widespread movement of 100 battalion tactical groups … as well as armour, artillery and equipment,” according to the US report, which said that about half of those units were already near the border with Ukraine. . The intelligence discovery was first reported by The Washington Post. A Biden administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the finding, confirmed this to The Associated Press.

Amid rising tensions, Putin’s foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov told reporters on Friday that a Putin-Biden call has been arranged in the coming days, adding that the date will come after Moscow and Washington finalize details. will be announced.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki later said administration officials were “looking into the possibility” of the Biden-Putin call.

“This will certainly be an opportunity to discuss our serious concerns about war-related rhetoric, about the military build-up that we are seeing on the border with Ukraine,” Saki said.

On Thursday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met face-to-face with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in Stockholm and demanded that Russia withdraw troops from the border with Ukraine. Lavrov hit back at the West “playing with fire” by denying Russia a say in any further expansion of NATO into the countries of the former Soviet Union.

Ukraine has pushed for joining the coalition, which has fulfilled its promise of membership but has not set a timeline.

Ushakov noted that during the call with Biden, Putin would raise his demand for a legally binding agreement that would “exclude any expansion of NATO to the east and the deployment of weapons systems that would allow us to reach areas of neighboring countries, including Ukraine.” But there will be danger.”

Russia has long insisted on such an arrangement, Ushakov said, emphasizing that it has become particularly acute because of the latest build-up of tensions. “It just can’t continue like this,” he said.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said this week that Russia has no authority over whether Ukraine has joined the Western Security Alliance.

“It is for Ukraine and its 30 allies to decide when Ukraine is ready to join the coalition,” he said. Russia has “no veto, no right to interfere in that process.”

Russia and Ukraine remained locked in a tense tug of war after annexing Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014 and throwing their weight behind a separatist insurgency in Ukraine’s eastern industrial region known as the Donbass. More than 14,000 people have died in the fighting.

Ukraine’s defense minister warned on Friday that tensions are “a possible scenario, but not certain, and our job is to avert it.”

“Our intelligence service analyzes all scenarios, including the worst,” Reznikov said. “The most likely time when (Russia) would be ready for a hike is at the end of January.”

Konstantin Kosachev, deputy speaker of the upper house of parliament, confirmed Moscow’s denial that it was considering an attack.

“We have no plans to attack Ukraine. We have no military activity near Ukraine’s borders. No preparations are underway for the offensive,” Kosachev told Russia’s state TV channel Russia-24.

The Kremlin has expressed concern that Ukraine could use force to reclaim control of the rebel East. And adding to tensions, the head of a Russian-backed, self-proclaimed separatist republic in eastern Ukraine said on Thursday he could turn to Moscow for military aid if the region faces a Ukrainian attack.

Reznikov said Ukraine would do nothing to provoke Russia but was ready to respond in the event of an attack. “Ukraine is most interested in political and diplomatic solutions,” the defense minister said.

He said Ukraine would this month begin construction of two naval bases with British assistance – one in Ochakov on the Black Sea and the other in Berdyansk on the Sea of ​​Azov.

“Navy development and missile programs are among our priorities,” he said.

Karamanau reported from Kiev, Ukraine. Ellen Nichmeyer and Amer Madhani in Washington and Dasha Litvinova in Moscow contributed to this report.

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