Biden: Russian threat of invading Ukraine is still'very high.
KYIV, Ukraine (AP), -- Fears of a new European war resurged on Thursday after President Joe Biden warned Russia could invade Ukraine in days. Violence erupted in a long-running conflict in eastern Ukraine, which some fear could spark a wider conflict.
The world's top diplomats raced to find solutions, but the suspicions between East-West tensions only grew as NATO allies rejected Russian claims that it was withdrawing troops from exercises that had fuelled fears of an attack. Russia is believed have assembled around 150,000 military forces near Ukraine's borders.
The West became more concerned about Russia's handling of these troops, which make up approximately 60% of all the Russian ground forces. Although the Kremlin claims it does not intend to invade, it has always considered Ukraine its sphere and NATO's eastward expansion a threat. The U.S. government has issued some of the most explicit warnings about what might happen next.
U.S. Secretary Of State Antony Blinken spoke at the U.N. Security Council and shared some U.S. intelligence conclusions in a strategy the U.S. hopes will reveal and prevent any invasion planning. The U.S. has not revealed much of the evidence supporting its claims.
He said that "we don't know the exact pretext" -- a "so called terrorist bombing" in Russia, a staged drone strike and "a fake, even an actual attack... using chemical arms".
He said that cyberattacks would be used to open the door, as well as missiles and bombs being dropped on Ukraine. Blinken described further the U.S. image, including the Russian troop entry into Kyiv (a city of almost 3 million) and other key targets.
Blinken stated that U.S. intelligence suggested Russia would also target "specific groups", but he did not give details.
Blinken impliedly nodded to Colin Powell's 2003 appearance before the Security Council, in which he used unsubstantiated U.S intelligence to justify the U.S. invasion. I'm here today to stop a war.
Biden's comments about the Russian threat were also unusually grave.
Biden stated that Washington did not see any signs of Russia's promised withdrawal and that Russia has sent more troops towards the border with Ukraine. Instead of withdrawing them, "every indication we have is that they're ready to go into Ukraine, strike Ukraine." Biden said that the U.S. has reason to believe Russia is engaged in a "false flag operation to give them an excuse to enter," but did not offer details.
Biden stated that he did not plan to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin anytime soon.
Even without an attack on Ukraine, the Russian-imposed pressure has continued to hampered its fragile economy and put a strain on an entire nation. Since 2014, Eastern Ukraine has seen fighting that has claimed 14,000 lives. Tensions rose again on Thursday.
Separatist officials in the Luhansk area reported an increase in Ukrainian government bombardment along the tense lines of contact. Rodion Miroshnik, a separatist official, said that rebel forces had returned fire.
The claim was disputed by Ukraine, who claimed that separatists had attacked its forces but didn't fire back. According to the Ukrainian military command, shells struck a kindergarten in Stanytsia Luhanska and injured two teachers. The town was cut off from power.
Yasar Halit, the head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's monitoring mission, stated that 500 explosions were reported along the contact line between Wednesday night and Thursday. Cevik informed the Security Council that tensions appeared to have eased, with around 30 blasts being reported. He also stated that it was crucial to immediately de-escalate the situation to avoid further escalation.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian President, tweeted that the "pro-Russian forces" had shelled kindergartens.
Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesperson, responded with the following: "We have repeatedly warned, that the excessive concentrations of Ukrainian armed forces within the immediate vicinity of line of demarcation, combined with possible provocations could pose a terrible risk."
France and Germany brokered a 2015 agreement that ended the worst fighting. However, regular skirmishes continue and no political solution has been reached.
The West scrambled for ways to prevent or prepare for an invasion.
NATO's defense ministers discussed ways of strengthening defenses in Eastern Europe while EU leaders debated how to punish Russia for its invasion. Blinken, Vice President Kamala Harris and other political, military and diplomatic officials will be attending the Munich annual security conference that will host urgent consultations about the crisis.
China, a key Russian geopolitical allies, has accused Washington of "playing up" and "sensitizing the crisis and escalating tensions." Wang Wenbin, spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry, said that the U.S. must "take seriously and address Russia’s legitimate and reasonable security concerns."
The U.S. Defense secretary Lloyd Austin asked the Russian troop withdrawal claims at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
"We have seen some of these troops move closer to the border. He said that they see them flying in more combat and support planes. "We see them improve their readiness in Black Sea. We also see them stocking up on blood supplies. These aren't things you do for fun.
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace stated that the West has seen a "rise in troops over the past 48 hours, up 7,000" - a statement that is consistent with the statements of a U.S. official a day earlier.
Maxar Technologies, a commercial satellite imaging company, reported that there was continued military activity in the vicinity of Ukraine. It also noted the opening of a new pontoon bridge in Belarus and the opening of a field hospital in Belarus.
Russia claims that the withdrawal, which was announced earlier in the week, will take some time. Major-General Igor Konashenkov, Russian Defense Ministry spokesperson, stated that Russian tanks and infantry units were returning to the Nizhny Novgorod area from drills they had been holding in the Kursk or Bryansk regions of Ukraine. After a 700-kilometer journey, he said that some were already back.
Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. Troops in the area were involved in maneuvers. He said that Russian troops in Belarus have returned to their garrisons. Konashenkov did not mention the number of troops deployed or how many returned.
NATO has, in contrast, moved troops and military gear into Eastern Europe as a show of resolve to deter Russian aggression and to underline its intention to defend NATO's eastern members should they become a target.
The U.S. began sending 5,000 troops to Poland, and Romania. An additional 8,500 troops are available on standby and others are expected to move towards Bulgaria. Britain will send hundreds of soldiers to Poland and offer more warships, planes and personnel to Estonia. The Netherlands, Norway, Germany and Norway have sent troops to Lithuania. Spain and Denmark are sending jets to the Baltic Sea region to police, while some Spanish aircraft were also sent to Bulgaria.
Russia offered a new diplomacy offer Thursday to the United States, in response to previous offers to negotiate on limiting European missile deployments, military drill restrictions, and other confidence-building measures.
The Foreign Ministry released a response that deplored the West's inability to meet main Russian security and demand requirements. It also reaffirmed the possibility for Moscow to take unspecified military-technical steps if the U.S. or its allies continue to block its concerns.
It also stated that Russia was open to discussing limits on missile deployments and restrictions on patrol flights of strategic bombers, as well as other confidence-building measures.
Russia also ordered Bart Gorman (the deputy chief of mission at U.S. Embassy Moscow) to leave the country in an "unprovoked". Russia claimed it was in response the expulsion of a Russian diplomat. It was more likely to be related to the ongoing U.S.-Russian battle over diplomatic staffing in Washington, Moscow, and Ukraine.
Isachenkov reported in Moscow, Superville from Washington, and Cook from Brussels. Matthew Lee in Munich; Angela Charlton, Jill Lawless, in London; Edith M. Lederer, United Nations, Frank Jordans, Berlin; and Aamer Madhani and Ellen Knickmeyer, Colleen Lang and Zeke Miller, Washington.