US claims ‘Russia could invade Ukraine within weeks’
By Stefan J. Bos
Washington says Russia has operatives trained in explosives to carry out a “false-flag” operation to fabricate a reason to invade Ukraine. These units allegedly could carry out an attack, for instance, against Russian-backed forces in or near eastern Ukraine that Moscow could blame on Ukraine’s government.
An official said these forces were preparing to start working “several weeks” before a military invasion, between mid-January and mid-February.
Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security advisor, said earlier that Russia used similar tactics in 2014 when it captured Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and backed an insurgency in eastern Ukraine.
He also suggested that preparations for a Russian invasion are ongoing. “We believe that the Russians have positioned tens of thousands of troops and advanced military equipment on the border with Ukraine. And that they have done so with at least the capability if not the intention to invade. We believe the threat of invasion is real,” he told NBC News television.
However, he warned that if Russia chooses to roll across the Ukrainian frontier and further invade Ukraine beyond the incursions it already made, the United States will respond: “We will respond with our allies. We will respond with severe sanctions.”
The announcement came as hopes were waning within NATO that an invasion could be avoided after a week of talks between U.S. and Russian diplomats in Brussels and Geneva.
Moscow says it has “no intention” of invading Ukraine.
However, Russia demands security guarantees and says NATO must halt its expansion eastwards without accepting Ukraine as a new member.
NATO says it is up to Ukraine or any other European country to decide whether to join the alliance.
Amid the tensions, there were fears of more bloodshed in Ukraine, where clashes between government forces and Russian-backed separatists in the east already killed 14,000 people.