U.S. officials are warning of an imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine in the next few days with weapons that could include cyber warfare, ballistic missiles, fighter jets and tanks.
Russian military personnel in Crimea and areas near Ukraine have increased from an estimated 100,000 on Jan. 30 to as much as 190,000, said Michael Carpenter, the U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, in a prepared statement at a security conference on Friday.
“This is the most significant military mobilization in Europe since World War II,” Carpenter said.
Other Western officials said that an attack could come at any time.
U.S. officials said Russian President Vladimir Putin laid the groundwork for war in recent days with several false flag operations designed to make it look like Ukraine provoked Russia into a conflict to justify a Russian invasion, Washington Post reported.
A Russian-backed separatist leader in Eastern Ukraine, Denis Pushilin, head of the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), said there was a high likelihood of a war with huge casualties.
The situation is “unfortunately” headed for “major war,” Pushilin told Russian media.
Russia says the Ukraine conflict is a civil war in which it has no involvement, but senior Ukrainian government sources say Russia has deployed thousands of military personnel to support an estimated 35,000 separatists in the Southeastern Donbas region, Reuters reported.
“Russian forces have been waging war in Donbas for eight years,” Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday that Russia was behind the reports of mortar attacks against Russian citizens in Donbas, and the Kremlin is using that to justify a potential military intervention.
“Everything we are seeing … is part of a scenario that is already in play of creating false provocations, of then having to respond to those provocations and then ultimately committing new aggression against Ukraine,” Blinken said at the Munich Security Conference on Friday.
Authorities in Kiev released images on Thursday of a kindergarten badly damaged following alleged shelling by separatist forces. The U.S. and U.K. accuse Russia of “manufacturing pretext” for a Ukraine attack. Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed the attack on the kindergarten was a “false flag operation designed to discredit the Ukrainians,” The Standard reported. “We fear very much that that is a thing we will see more of over the next few days,” Johnson added.
Biden said, “Every indication we have is they’re prepared to go into Ukraine, attack Ukraine. My sense is this will happen within the next several days.”
Photo: Shelling on a kindergarten in Stanytsia Luhanska, Ukraine, Feb. 17, 2022. President Joe Biden warned that more troops were moving toward the border with Ukraine, indicating an imminent invasion within days. (AP Photo/Oleksandr Ratushniak)