Russia could attack Ukraine ‘at any point’ says White House as top diplomats set to meet

Russia has repeatedly denied it plans to invade its neighbour, but buildup on border continues

John Bowden
Tuesday 18 January 2022 19:57
White House believes Russia could invade Ukraine 'at any point'

The White House issued a grave warning about the state of tensions between Ukraine and Russia on Tuesday, asserting that a Russian invasion could begin “at any point” in the near future.

Joe Biden’s press secretary Jen Psaki made the remarks at her daily press briefing just minutes after it was reported that a top Russian diplomat and Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet in Geneva in the coming days.

“[W]e’re now at a stage where Russia could at any point launch an attack in Ukraine,” she said, calling the warning more “stark” than the US had been on the subject in recent days.

Mr Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Mr Blinken’s counterpart in Moscow, will meet on Friday. The conversation will take place after the US’s top diplomat meets with officials in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.

For weeks, the US has been warning about a buildup of Russian military forces at the border with Ukraine, which is particularly troubling for the region given Moscow’s history of military ambitions in the area. Russia’s government annexed Crimea, a region of Ukraine, after invading in 2014, and is thought by some Eurasia experts to desire total control of the crucial Eastern Bloc nation.

Ukraine, meanwhile, has signalled an interest in joining Nato, the western-led alliance set up to resist the expansion of the Soviet Union and its allied nations. The country does not have membership yet, and therefore the US and other countries are not bound to support its defence if threatened. The US has, however, promised severe economic sanctions and other unspecified consequences should Russia attack.

Intelligence officials in the US have also told news outlets that they believe Russia is planning a so-called “false flag” operation to generate a pretext for an invasion of Ukraine, possibly involving an attack on Russia-allied forces orchestrated by Moscow. Russia has denied this, as well as assertions from Pentagon spokesman John Kirby that Moscow is seeking a reason to invade at all.

The meeting will come just over a week after Mr Lavrov’s top deputy, Sergei Ryabkov, told reporters that there was no reason for Russian diplomats to sit down with their US partners and discuss terms given that the US had refused to bend to their demand of blocking Ukraine from any hope of joining NATO.

“I do not see reasons to sit down in the coming days, to gather again and start these same discussions”, he told reporters, adding that there was a “dead end or a difference in approaches” between the two governments.

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