According to the United States, Russian forces stationed near Ukraine’s borders have expanded by roughly 7,000 soldiers in recent days, despite Moscow’s assurances that it is withdrawing its personnel.
According to a senior US administration official, the surge makes Russia’s claim of retreat “false,” and President Vladimir Putin’s outward openness to dialogue is only a front for his true intentions.
In the official’s words, “Every indicator we have today indicates that they want merely to publicly offer to negotiate and make statements about de-escalation while covertly organizing for war.”
In light of the latest estimates, the number of Russian soldiers is likely higher than the 150,000 figure that President Joe Biden mentioned in a televised speech earlier this week. Western politicians had previously expressed skepticism of Russia’s assertions of disengagement.
During a speech in the East Room on Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden said that a pullout of Russian forces would be “wonderful,” but he added that he had not yet seen any evidence that such a withdrawal was occurring.
“Our analysis suggests that they continue to be in a very dangerous situation,” Biden warned. “In addition, the truth remains that Russia now has more than 150,000 soldiers ringing Ukraine and Belarus, as well as near the country’s border.”
In his latest statement, the senior official warned that Russia could use a false pretext for an attack, such as claiming NATO activity or an incursion into Russian territory, or alleging atrocities were taking place in the eastern Donbas region, which has been under the control of Russian-backed separatists since 2014.
As a result, the person said, “we should anticipate similar bogus allegations from Russian state media in the following days.” “We have no way of knowing what shape the fabricated pretext would take. However, we trust that the world is prepared.”
Following an early evening briefing call, the statements offered a stark picture of the situation as the United States and Europe waited on tenterhooks to clarify Putin’s intentions.
Although American officials have said that the window for a future invasion is still open, they have also stated that the enigmatic Russian leader will still be in charge of making the ultimate choice.
Biden had taken advantage of signs from Moscow that it was eager to begin conversations the day before, stating that there was “plenty of opportunity for diplomacy” in the situation.
However, in a subsequent statement, the official significantly downplayed such chances while still stating that conversations would continue.
As the official said, “we will continue to seek diplomacy over the next days while being prepared to strike promptly and firmly if necessary.” “Russia has said repeatedly that it wishes to seek a diplomatic settlement; but, its actions suggest otherwise.
We hope that they would reconsider their approach before launching a conflict that will result in widespread death and damage.”
During a press conference on Tuesday, Putin said that Russia was returning some soldiers to their bases after completing maneuvers in Crimea, the Ukrainian area that Russia occupied in 2014.
However, the assertion was met with skepticism by leaders in the United States and Europe.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance had not yet seen “any evidence of de-escalation on the ground,” but that “signal from Moscow that dialogue should continue” provided reason for cautious hope. “We have not yet seen any sign of de-escalation on the ground,” Stoltenberg said.
On Wednesday, Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, told a press conference in Kyiv that he was following an established procedure when it came to Russian claims: “Do not listen first, then believe. However, you must first observe and then believe.”
In a morning interview on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that “there is a difference between what Russia says and what it does.” “What we’re seeing right now is no major slowdown,” Blinken said in an interview with ABC News.