Mariupol, Ukraine – Russia has established 70 percent of the military buildup it needs to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, according to American officials cited anonymously in US media.
During six hours of closed meetings last week, officials were warned by senior members of the administration of President Joe Biden that among the most aggressive of possibilities is a quick capture of the capital Kyiv, according to the Washington Post and New York Times.
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Although the unnamed officials said intelligence analysts did not believe that Russia’s President Vladmir Putin had made the final decision to invade, they did warn of as many as 50,000 civilian deaths and up to 25,000 Ukrainian soldiers killed if Russia does go ahead.
On Sunday, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba questioned the US media reports.
“Do not believe the apocalyptic predictions. Different capitals have different scenarios, but Ukraine is ready for any development. Today, Ukraine has a strong army, unprecedented international support, and Ukrainians’ faith in their country. This enemy should be afraid of us, not us,” said Kuleba.
Rights groups Amnesty International and the Norwegian Refugee Council have cautioned in recent weeks a military escalation between Ukraine and Russia could result in a new refugee crisis, displacing millions of people from eastern Ukraine and the territories controlled by pro-Russian forces.
“The threat of the use of military force by Russia is already affecting the human rights of millions of people in Ukraine and beyond,” said Agnes Callamard, Amnesty’s secretary general.
“The consequences of actual military force are likely to be devastating.”
The anonymous US officials quoted by US media also said a major Russian naval force is positioned in the Black Sea, equipped with five amphibious vessels that could be used to land troops on Ukraine’s southern coast.
Possible attacks on Ukraine on the lower end of the scale could take the form of sabotage, cyberattacks, and other destabilising actions with the goal of removing the current government in Kyiv, they said.
‘Madness and scaremongering’
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s government is downplaying the current threat posed to Ukraine by the buildup of tens of thousands of Russian troops and military hardware at the border and in annexed Crimea.
The United States and United Kingdom have been accused of exaggerating the threat, something they have categorically denied.
Russian diplomat Dmitry Polyanskiy, a representative to the UN, called the latest American media reports citing unnamed officials “madness and scaremongering”.
“What if we would say the US could seize London in a week and cause 300K civilian deaths? All this based on our intelligence sources that we won’t disclose,” he said in a Twitter post.
Another masterpiece of US propaganda war. Unnamed officials, undisclosed sources, no evidence. And as we all saw, if you openly question such fakes you won’t get answers and will be labled Russian apologist #KeepCalmAndBlameRussia https://t.co/b3fG9JKQby pic.twitter.com/KspNKuiSwz
— Dmitry Polyanskiy (@Dpol_un) February 6, 2022
Both sides have accused the other of planning false flag operations in recent days as a pretext for a further military escalation.
US intelligence sources claimed that Russia is planning an operation involving fake drone attacks on the Donbas region, the colloquial term for eastern Ukraine, or on Russian territory, while Russian state TV claimed Kyiv is to launch a NATO-backed attack on pro-Russian separatists.
European leaders are expected to visit both Moscow and Kyiv this week in a bid to calm the tensions.
France’s President Emmanuel Macron will visit on Monday and Tuesday, while German chancellor Olaf Scholz will travel to Kyiv on February 14 and Moscow the following day.