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Ukraine Urges Calm on Russia           01/25 06:16

   

   KYIV, Ukraine (AP) -- Ukraine's leaders sought to reassure the nation that a 
feared invasion from neighboring Russia was not imminent, even as they 
acknowledged the threat is real and prepared to accept a shipment of American 
military equipment Tuesday to shore up their defenses.

   Russia has denied it is planning an assault, but it has massed an estimated 
100,000 troops near Ukraine in recent weeks, leading the United States and its 
NATO allies to rush to prepare for a possible war.

   Several rounds of high stakes diplomacy have failed to yield any 
breakthroughs, and this week tensions escalated further. NATO said it was 
bolstering its deterrence in the Baltic Sea region, and the U.S. ordered 8,500 
troops on higher alert to potentially deploy to Europe as part of an alliance 
"response force" if necessary.

   The State Department has ordered the families of all American personnel at 
the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv to leave the country, and it said that nonessential 
embassy staff could leave. Britain said it, too, was withdrawing some diplomats 
and dependents from its embassy.

   In Ukraine, however, authorities have sought to project calm.

   Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said late Monday that the situation 
was "under control" and that there is "no reason to panic."

   Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said that, as of Monday, that Russia's 
armed forces had not formed what he called battle groups, "which would have 
indicated that tomorrow they would launch an offensive."

   "There are risky scenarios. They're possible and probable in the future," 
Reznikov told Ukraine's ICTV channel on Monday. "But as of today ... such a 
threat doesn't exist."

   Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine's National Security and Defense 
Council, echoed that sentiment, saying that the movement of Russian troops near 
Ukraine's border "is not news."

   "As of today, we don't see any grounds for statements about a full-scale 
offensive on our country," Danilov said Monday.

   Russia has said Western accusations that it is planning an invasion are 
merely a cover for NATO's own planned provocations. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry 
Peskov on Tuesday once again accused the U.S. of "fomenting tensions" around 
the Ukraine, a former Soviet state that Russia has been locked in a bitter 
tug-of-war with for almost eight years.

   In 2014, following the ouster of a Kremlin-friendly president in Ukraine, 
Moscow annexed the Crimean peninsula and threw its weight behind a separatist 
insurgency in the country's industrial heartland in the east. The fighting 
between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed rebels has since killed over 14,000 
people, and efforts to reach a peaceful settlement of the conflict have stalled.

   In the latest standoff, Russia has demanded guarantees from the West that 
NATO would never allow Ukraine to join and that the alliance would curtail 
other actions, such as stationing troops in former Soviet bloc countries. Some 
of these, like any pledge to permanently bar Ukraine, are non-starters for NATO 
-- creating a seemingly intractable stalemate that many fear can only end in 
war.

   Putting the U.S.-based troops on heightened alert for Europe on Monday 
suggested diminishing hope that Russian President Vladimir Putin will back away 
from what U.S. President Joe Biden himself has said looks like a threat to 
invade neighboring Ukraine.

   As part of a new $200 million in security assistance directed to Ukraine 
from the United States, a shipment including equipment and munitions is also 
expected to arrive Tuesday in Ukraine.

   The U.S. moves are being done in tandem with actions by other NATO member 
governments to bolster a defensive presence in Eastern Europe. Denmark, for 
example, is sending a frigate and F-16 warplanes to Lithuania; Spain is sending 
four fighter jets to Bulgaria and three ships to the Black Sea to join NATO 
naval forces, and France stands ready to send troops to Romania.

 
 
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