US ‘warns Europe that Russia could invade Ukraine’, as troops mass near border

Biden administration concerned Moscow could make ‘serious mistake’

Rory Sullivan
Friday 12 November 2021 00:50
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<p>Cadets train in Bolshoye Bunkovo, Russia, on 11 November, 2021.</p>

Cadets train in Bolshoye Bunkovo, Russia, on 11 November, 2021.

The US has reportedly warned its European allies Russia could attempt to invade more Ukrainian territory less than a decade after it annexed Crimea.

American officials briefed their European colleagues about a potential military assault, amid a large build-up of troops near the Russian-Ukrainian border, according to a Daily Telegraph report.

Around 90,000 Russian troops have gathered there, Ukraine’s defence ministry said last week.

The scenes serve as a reminder of the Russian invasion of Crimea seven years ago, which resulted in the annexation of the territory.

Speaking about the current threat, US secretary of state Antony Blinken said on Wednesday: “We don’t have clarity into Moscow’s intentions, but we do know its playbook.

“And our concern is that Russia may make the serious mistake of attempting to rehash what it undertook back in 2014.”

A day later, the Kremlin claimed one of its fighter jets forced a British spy plane to change course after it flew near Crimea on Thursday.

The British Boeing RC-135 aircraft reportedly came close to the Black Sea peninsula, which the west still considers to belong to Ukraine.

The plane altered its flight path after a Sukhoi SU-30 fighter jet attempted to intercept it, the Russian defence ministry said.

The incident comes as the US and its allies increase their military activity in the area in reaction to the gathering of Russian troops near the Ukraine border.

Four planes belonging to Nato members were spotted operating near the Black Sea in the space of 24 hours, Russia’s defence ministry said on Thursday. This includes the British aircraft that was allegedly made to divert its route.

Two Russian warships were also observing two US vessels in the region, Moscow added.

Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, described the presence of Western military forces as provocative during a call with the German chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday.

For its part, the US said it was closely monitoring the situation on the Russian border with Ukraine, and condemned the presence of tens of thousands of Russian troops there.

Karen Donfried, the assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasia, said on Wednesday: “Any time we see unusual Russian military activity near Ukraine we make clear that any escalatory or aggressive action is of great concern to the United States.”

She added that the US was “very clear” in standing with Ukraine against “Russian aggression”.

Russia also flexed its own military muscles on Thursday by sending two nuclear-capable bombers over Belarus, in a show of support for its ally.

The move goes against Ms Merkel’s demand that Mr Putin exert influence on Belarus, which the EU accuses of weaponising migration on its border with Poland to spite the bloc.

Earlier this week, the chancellor’s spokesperson said Ms Merkel had told her Russian counterpart that Minsk’s actions were “inhuman and unacceptable”, and amounted to “state-sanctioned human trafficking”.

Additional reporting by agencies

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