Russia has not assembled sufficient forces to launch an imminent full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Wednesday, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov threatened “appropriate response measures” if the West continues its “aggressive line.”
Kuleba told reporters in Kyiv that Russian troops could attack Ukraine at any time, as had been the case since 2014 when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, but currently would not be able to mount a full offensive.
“The number of Russian troops amassed along the border of Ukraine and in occupied territories is large, it poses a threat — a direct threat to Ukraine,” said Kuleba.
“However, as we speak this number is insufficient for a full-scale offensive along the entire Ukrainian border. They also lack some important military indicators and systems to conduct such a large full-scale offensive,” he added. “We can say 100 times a day invasion is imminent, but this doesn’t change the situation on the ground.”
Ukraine has warned that Russia is trying to destabilize the country ahead of any planned military invasion. Western powers have repeatedly warned Russia against further aggressive moves against Ukraine.
The Kremlin denies it is planning to attack and argues that NATO support for Ukraine — including increased weapons supplies and military training — constitutes a growing threat on Russia’s western flank.
Kuleba told reporters that a military invasion is not the only threat to Ukraine.
“We see a scenario of destabilization of Ukraine and that scenario is imminent, it’s already taking place — by spreading panic, by putting pressure on Ukraine’s financial system, by conducting cyber-attacks against Ukraine,” he said.
“I am certain President [Vladimir] Putin would be happy to see this plan succeed so he doesn’t even have to resort to military force to put Ukraine in an extremely vulnerable position.”
He added: “Priority number one today is to keep things under control, to be realistic in the assessment of immediate threat while not diminishing the threat of potential military invasion.”
Earlier Wednesday, Sergiy Korsunsky, Ukraine’s Ambassador to Japan, said he does not expect an all-out war with Russia.
“I am optimistic. I believe that full-scale war is very, very, very difficult to expect but we may see more localized conflict, unfortunately,” Korsunsky said during a speech in Tokyo about Ukraine-Japan relations.
“But if it comes to military terms, let me tell you, we are very much ready. Our army is very well prepared. And you have a population which is very well motivated,” Korsunsky said.
“It is absolute nonsense to think, as some Russian analysts say, that once we see the approaching of Russian forces, there will be an uprising, there will be change in the government. No way,” he added.
A source close to the Ukrainian leadership told CNN on Tuesday that the latest military intelligence suggests Russian forces are not yet prepared to stage an imminent invasion into the country.
Russia will not allow “endless discussion,” says foreign minister
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov addressed the country’s State Duma on Wednesday and repeated his desire for assurances from the US regarding security measures.
Lavrov met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Geneva, Switzerland, on January 21, and Russia has submitted “concrete requests,” he said.
Russia has asked the US and NATO for certain security guarantees, including binding pledges that NATO won’t admit Ukraine or expand further east.
A US response is “expected this week,” said Lavrov on Wednesday.
“We will not allow any attempts to wind up our initiative in endless discussion,” he added. “If there won’t be any constructive response and the West will continue its aggressive line, then as the President said multiple times, Moscow will take appropriate response measures.”
Later on Wednesday, officials from the Biden administration said they could send a response as soon as that day.
But the US is unlikely to characterize the likelihood of Ukraine joining NATO in the short term or show any room for negotiation on NATO’s open-door policy — Putin’s central grievance — when they present Russia with a written response, said officials.
Instead the proposal will lay out general areas where the US is willing to work with Russia, which US officials have already identified: arms control, greater transparency, risk reduction and the placement of missile systems.
The purpose of providing the response in written form — a demand Russia has made since they put written ideas forward in December — is to fuel the diplomacy the US hopes will deter a Russian invasion of Ukraine, State Department officials said.
“We’re taking this step by step, but we don’t want to be the ones to foreclose the possible diplomatic solution,” a senior State Department official told reporters after the meeting in Geneva.
Blinken said in Geneva that US and Russian officials would meet again after the written proposal was sent to Russia.
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