Last night, Russia stepped up preparations for an invasion of Ukraine, despite statements by Vladimir Putin that he favors continued negotiations, not military conflict.
Yesterday, Western countries took the extremely worrying step of seeing more Russian troops moving towards the border with Ukraine, contrary to Russian claims.
They will support an invasion force of 130,000. But despite Western evidence that the Russians were building up forward forces, President Putin insisted he “didn’t want war.”
Meanwhile, the Russian media released footage showing tanks withdrawing.
The videos appeared to be staged, but the spokesman insisted that “the troops of the Southern and Western military districts” had completed their exercises and would “return to their permanent bases.”
Kremlin spokeswoman Maria Zakharova ridiculed Britain and the US, saying that yesterday “will go down in history as the day Western military propaganda failed, humiliated and destroyed without firing a shot.”
Boris Johnson said there were “mixed messages” from Moscow and called for further troop withdrawals.
Putin spoke at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who said West and East remain divided, but the leader must find solutions while avoiding conflict.
Joe Biden said last night that an invasion of Ukraine “remains entirely possible” and that the US “has not yet confirmed” claims of Russian troop withdrawals.
In a televised address from the White House, the president warned that the human cost of the invasion would be “enormous.”
Mr. Biden said that while the US does not “seek direct confrontation with Russia,” it is ready to “strongly respond” and “rally the world to counter its aggression.”
He stated that he would not send American troops to fight in Ukraine. But Mr. Biden added: “The invasion of Ukraine will be a self-inflicted wound, and the US, our allies and partners will respond strongly.” The West is united and revitalized.”
Vladimir Putin said that Russia is “ready to take the path of negotiations” with the West, opening up the possibility of negotiations on arms control, military transparency and other measures aimed at reducing tensions.
In this photo from a video provided by the press service of the Russian Ministry of Defense on Tuesday, February 15, 2022, Russian armored vehicles are loaded onto railway platforms after the end of military exercises in southern Russia. Another sign that the Kremlin wants to lower the temperature could be another sign that the Russian Defense Ministry announced on Tuesday that some units participating in military exercises will begin to return to their bases.
Ukraine tested anti-tank missile sent by the UK
Troops in Ukraine held anti-tank weapons exercises yesterday as the country continued to prepare for a possible Russian invasion.
This comes after the UK donated 2,000 NLAW anti-tank weapons to Ukraine last month. Troops testing yesterday in the eastern part of the Donetsk region used NLAW, but it was not clear if it was a British weapon.
This was part of a series of Ukrainian exercises in recent days. On Sunday, the military command issued a statement saying it was ready to repel the Russian threat. They boasted of their Stinger and Javelin missiles, saying: “We are ready to meet the enemy – and not with flowers, but with Stingers, Javelins and ULAs.”
Last night, a Western source said: “We have not seen any evidence of the withdrawal of Russian troops – in fact, quite the contrary. Russia continues to strengthen its positions on the border with Ukraine.
“We could also easily see a false flag operation. [today] in the spirit of “well, we retreated, but look what the Ukrainians did.” So we are still ready for the immediate scenario.
“The volume of Russian potential remains very high, the exact location of military assets may change, but the threat remains.
“Putin… is obsessed with Ukraine and has a very distorted view of Ukrainian history. The return of Ukraine is an end in itself. But he will listen to his generals, who are afraid to get involved in a protracted conflict.”
There were also concerns last night that Putin might try to use alleged mistreatment of Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine to justify an offensive.
In his sharpest critique of the Ukrainian government’s treatment of pro-Russian communities, he compared its policies to “genocide”.
The list of Russian demands that NATO has repeatedly rejected includes the withdrawal of thousands of Western troops from Eastern Europe and a ban on Ukraine’s entry into the alliance.
Yesterday at a press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Putin said: “Do we want this? [war] or not? Of course not. That is why we put forward proposals for the negotiation process. But the question of Ukraine’s membership in NATO must be decided now.”
A Ukrainian soldier fires an NLAW anti-tank weapon during an exercise as part of the Joint Forces Operation, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, February 15, 2022.
Troops in Ukraine held anti-tank weapons exercises yesterday as the country continued to prepare for a possible Russian invasion. This was part of a series of Ukrainian exercises in recent days. On Sunday, the military command issued a statement saying it was ready to repel the Russian threat.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (right) sits with Putin (left) in the Kremlin yesterday. Scholz is the latest foreign leader to receive long-table treatment for talks aimed at de-escalating the crisis.
After meeting with Cobra yesterday, Boris Johnson said: “The information we see today is still not encouraging. You have more battalion tactical groups pulling up to the border. Everyone should see the de-escalation program.
“This means the withdrawal of groups from the theater of operations, and not the construction of field hospitals on the border with Belarus, which can only be interpreted as preparation for an invasion.” Western officials still believe that Putin has not yet decided whether to invade. A source said: “It could take weeks or months.”
They added: “The West does not want to humiliate President Putin. But do not worry about whether he can go down with his head held high. He will try to shape the narrative in a way that suits him.”
Last night, the websites of the Ukrainian government, including the Ministry of Defense, were subjected to cyberattacks. The nation has reportedly blamed Russia for the strikes.