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
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.