February 1, 2023

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US says Russia has added 7,000 troops along the Ukrainian border, despite claims of withdrawal

US says Russia has added 7,000 troops along the Ukrainian border, despite claims of withdrawal

A senior administration official said the increase was making Russia’s assertion of withdrawal “false,” and President Vladimir Putin warned that the public opening to diplomacy was a cover.

“All indication we have now is that they only mean to show talk publicly, claim de-escalation, while secretly mobilizing for war,” the official said.

New estimates put the number of Russian forces north of the figure at 150,000 President Joe Biden He stated in a televised address earlier this week. Western leaders had already received Russia’s claims of withdrawal with skepticism. Biden said on Tuesday During a speech in the East Room that the withdrawal of Russian forces would be “good,” but he has not yet seen any evidence that such a withdrawal was underway.

“Our analysts note that they remain in a very dangerous situation,” Biden said. For now, the fact remains that Russia has more than 150,000 soldiers besieging Ukraine, Belarus, and along the Ukrainian borders.

The senior official again warned that Russia could use a false pretext to launch an attack, including allegations of NATO activity or incursions into Russian territory, or allegations of atrocities in the eastern Donbass region, which was under the control of Russian-backed separatists. since 2014.

“We should expect more false reports from Russian state media in the coming days,” the official said. “We don’t know what form the false pretext will take. But we hope the world will be ready.”

The announcements, delivered on a media call early in the evening, painted a stark picture as the United States and Europe, in deep disagreements, wait for Putin to signal his intentions. US officials have said the window is open for a possible invasion but that the shadowy Russian leader will still need to make the final decision.

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The day before, Biden had taken advantage of signals from Moscow that it was ready to resume negotiations, saying there was “a lot of room for diplomacy.” But the official, who spoke the next day, greatly downplayed those expectations while saying talks would continue.

“We will continue to pursue diplomacy in the coming days while we are ready to respond quickly and decisively,” the official said. “Russia continues to say that it wants to pursue a diplomatic solution; their actions indicate otherwise. We hope that they will change course before the start of a war that will lead to catastrophic death and destruction.”

On Tuesday, Putin claimed that Russia would return some troops to its base after completing exercises in Crimea, the Ukrainian region annexed by Russia in 2014.

But US and European leaders have uniformly cast doubt on this claim.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance had so far seen “no sign of de-escalation on the ground”, but added that “indications from Moscow that diplomacy must continue” were cause for cautious optimism.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told a news conference in Kiev that he adheres to a rule when it comes to Russian allegations: “Don’t listen and then believe. But look and then believe.”

There is “a difference between what Russia says and what it does,” US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said in a Wednesday morning interview.

“What we’re seeing is not a meaningful regression,” Blinken told ABC News.

This story has been updated with more reports.