US rejects Moscow’s troop claim
Washington has not seen any evidence of Russia pulling its military units away from Ukraine in a “meaningful” way, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday, insisting the troops have continued to “mass” at the border.
Moscow had previously said on Tuesday that its units had begun returning to their bases after the completion of large-scale joint exercises in Belarus in areas close to the Ukrainian frontier.
“Unfortunately, there’s a difference between what Russia says and what it does. And what we’re seeing is no meaningful pullback,” Blinken said on Wednesday while speaking on ABC’s Good Morning America.
Instead, the US observed Moscow continuing to “mass” its troops at the border, the top diplomat claimed, adding that this especially concerns the units that he said “would be in the vanguard of any renewed aggression against Ukraine.”
Blinken insisted that the threat of an allegedly looming ‘Russian invasion’ of Ukraine remains high, and the purported attack “could come at any time.”
“President Putin’s put in place the capacity to act on very short notice. He could pull the trigger. He could pull it today. He could pull it tomorrow. He could pull it next week. The forces are there if he wants to renew aggression against Ukraine,” Blinken claimed.
A similar assessment was provided by NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg earlier in the day. While he was unable to provide an exact figure, the organization’s secretary general said the number of troops in the border region has significantly exceeded previous estimates of 100,000. Moscow has repeatedly rubbished this information.
Stoltenberg claimed that “Russia retains the capability of a full-fledged invasion of Ukraine without any warning time,” saying the bloc would continue to closely “monitor” its moves.
Western officials have repeatedly sounded the alarm over the past few months, insisting that Russia could soon invade its neighbor, and have pointed to reports of a troop buildup on the two countries’ shared border, as well as joint exercises with Belarus. On Tuesday, Moscow announced that it had started withdrawing its troops after having completed training exercises in the former Soviet republic, close to Ukraine’s frontier.
The announcement came a day before the alleged ‘invasion date’ pinpointed by the British and American media as February 16. Moscow has consistently maintained that it has no intention of attacking its neighbor or anybody else, refuting the repeated claims of the allegedly imminent ‘invasion’ as “fake news.”