In his most recent interview, US National Security Advisor John Bolton warns that Russia is planning to take over Ukraine and presents evidence of the aggression. For its part, Russia denies any aggressive intent in an attempt to avoid further escalation. Even if this does not turn into a full-scale invasion, it will be indicative of what may happen later on.
Blinken adjusted his trip plans so he could speak at a UN conference on Thursday, where he claimed he was sharing US information regarding Russia’s efforts to create a pretext for an attack in order to “encourage Russia to leave the road of war and select an alternative route while there’s still time.”
“I’m here today to avert a conflict, not to create one,” Blinken said.
As he departed the White House on Thursday, Biden told reporters, “Every indication that we have is that they are poised to move into Ukraine, attack Ukraine.”
Russia refuted the idea that it was planning an invasion on Ukraine as “baseless charges” once again.
Blinken outlined six measures the US expects Russia to take in the coming days to justify military action in Ukraine in his statement to the Security Council. He predicted that Moscow will attempt to create a justification for the conflict, which might include a faked terrorist explosion within Russia, the fabrication of a mass grave, or a staged drone strike.
“Russia may call this ethnic cleansing or genocide,” Blinken added, “making a mockery of a notion that we in this chamber do not take lightly.”
According to Blinken, senior Russian officials are expected to have urgent talks before of an offensive that might involve Russian airstrikes and cyberattacks throughout Ukraine. According to Blinken, the US thinks Moscow has already chosen targets for its tanks and men to push on, including Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital.
“Some have called into doubt our information,” Blinken said, referring to previous difficulties with US intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq War. However, he said that the United States would be relieved if its forecasts were shown to be inaccurate and Russia reversed direction.
“What we’ve observed happening in plain sight before our eyes for months validates the facts I offered here,” Blinken stated. “Keep in mind that, although Russia has dismissed our warnings as theatrics and nonsense, they have methodically amassed over 100,000 soldiers on Ukraine’s borders.”
Russia accused the United States of making “baseless allegations.”
At Thursday’s Security Council meeting, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin advised others not to turn the UN conference into a “circus,” saying they should not offer “baseless charges that Russia was purportedly about to attack Ukraine.”
“We clarified and discussed everything a long time ago. And since the so-called invasion’s declared date has passed, my advise to you is to avoid putting yourself in an unpleasant position “Vershinin said.
According to a senior State Department source, the US got a response from Russia on Thursday to the written recommendations it gave to Russia three weeks ago
Moscow stated the US did not respond constructively and that “the rising US and NATO military action near to Russian borders is disturbing” in an 11-page memo released by official news outlet RIA-Novosti.
The answer said, “It’s about giving up NATO’s future growth.”
As tensions rose, the State Department said on Thursday that Russia had expelled the second-highest-ranking diplomat at the US embassy in Moscow without cause, in what the Biden administration sees as an escalatory step.
According to a senior State Department source, Gorman left Moscow last week. Moscow dismissed him earlier this year and gave him two weeks to leave.
“Russia’s actions against our deputy chief of mission, who was a critical part of the embassy’s leadership team, were unprovoked,” Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House senior deputy press secretary, told reporters onboard Air Force One. “Now, more than ever, having the essential diplomatic people in place to promote communication between our governments is crucial.” addressing the United Nations because “this is a critical juncture.”
“The information on the ground indicates that Russia is preparing to invade,” she stated. She said, “Our objective is to portray the seriousness of the issue.”
Blinken said he offered a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Europe next week to continue dialogue, as well as meetings of the NATO-Russia council and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, in a letter.
Russian soldiers and capabilities are continually being added to Ukraine’s border, according to the US.
On Thursday, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the US government is not observing any form of Russian force retreat from Ukraine’s border, but rather sees Russia increasing its capabilities and personnel “even in the previous few of days.”
Austin claimed the US is watching Russia deploy some soldiers closer to the border, fly in additional combat and support aircraft, stock up on blood supplies, and “sharpen their preparedness in the Black Sea” during a news briefing at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
“I was a soldier not long ago, and I know personally that these kinds of things don’t happen for no cause, and they definitely don’t happen when you’re getting ready to pack up and go, so we and our partners will be watchful,” he said on Thursday.
According to a US official, Russia has rockets and artillery deployed in such a manner that they may target cities and other densely populated regions.
As part of its information collection activities, the US has been performing aerial surveillance over Ukraine for some time, employing a mix of RC-135 Rivet Joints and RQ-4 Global Hawks. Even as fears of an invasion have increased, those flights have persisted.
The US source, echoing Biden and other administration officials, said the Russians have everything they need to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, considerably more than is required if the purpose is only to target Ukrainian military personnel.
Putin has not taken a final decision to invade, and the source emphasized that he might send troops back at any moment, but cautioned that “everything we see points to purpose.”
In order to figure out what Putin’s next move will be, the US is examining the entire situation in eastern Europe, from renewed fighting in Donbas to false flag operations to the Russian disinformation campaign, and comparing it to the most recent intelligence to see if those elements could be used as a pretext for an invasion.
However, it is speculative work, and it is impossible to make a firm judgment on whether or not Putin will move in. Nonetheless, there is rising optimism about Putin’s next move. According to the individual, the US is observing preparations that reflect “intentions to conduct military activities.”
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) observed a dramatic increase in ceasefire breaches along the frontlines separating Ukrainian and rebel troops in eastern Ukraine.
Early Thursday, both Ukrainian military troops and rebels holding areas of eastern Ukraine reported additional firing in the area. A kindergarten in Ukrainian-controlled territory was struck by a shell on Thursday, according to video and photographs authenticated by CNN.
Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, stated the settlement of Stanytsia Luhanska had been “shelled with heavy weaponry from the seized region of the Donbas.”
Kuleba said that rebels supported by Russia deployed a tank to fire artillery in eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainian foreign minister, speaking alongside his British colleague, Liz Truss, accused Russia of disseminating falsehoods to blame Ukraine.
“These shells originated from Russia-controlled temporarily seized territory of Ukraine,” Kuleba said in Kyiv.
In Munich, top authorities will meet.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg expressed alarm on Thursday that Russia is seeking to “create a pretext” for an armed strike on Ukraine.
He also said that NATO has spotted Russian intelligence operatives conducting “false flag operations” in Ukraine in order to “create a rationale for invading Ukraine.”
“We don’t know what will happen,” Stoltenberg said, “but we do know that Russia has built the largest force we’ve seen in decades in and surrounding Ukraine.”
In the midst of tensions between Russia and the West, US, NATO, and European officials are meeting in Munich for an annual security conference. Russia has decided not to attend.
Vice President Kamala Harris is heading a US team to the Munich Security Conference, which includes Blinken, and intends to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
Austin has also been on the road this week, visiting with other NATO defense ministers to discuss Russia’s military expansion before heading to Poland and Lithuania to speak with politicians and US soldiers.
Additional information was added to this article on Thursday.
Jennifer Hansler, Barbara Starr, Oren Liebermann, Michael Conte, Christian Sierra, Tim Lister, Nathan Hodge, Uliana Pavlova, Katie Polglase, Gianluca Mezzofiore, Anastasia Graham-Yooll, and Jennifer Hansler contributed to this story for CNN.