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Biden: Invasion of Ukraine still “clearly possible” despite Russian allegations | Ukraine

Joe Biden claimed 150,000 Russian soldiers are still in a “threat situation” around Ukraine, Despite Russian allegations of withdrawalAnd he warned that the invasion “is still clearly possible.”

In a televised address from the White House on Tuesday afternoon, Biden put together a frequent offer of security talks with a warning of serious repercussions if Russia He launched an attack that US intelligence reports indicated could happen as early as Wednesday.

He said he would “mobilize the world” to oppose Russian military action, but made clear that the response would be primarily economic, saying: “I will not send American soldiers to fight in Russia.” Ukraine. “

But he made it clear that any attack on NATO territory or harm to Americans would be dealt with differently.

“We are not seeking a direct confrontation with Russia, although I was clear that if Russia targeted the Americans and Ukraine, we would respond forcefully,” Biden said. “If Russia attacks the United States or our allies through asymmetric means, such as disruptive cyber attacks against our companies or critical infrastructure, we are prepared to respond.”

Earlier in the day, websites operated by Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, Armed Forces and the country’s largest commercial bank, PrivatBank, were shut down after a cyber attack. The Washington Post cited intelligence sources as saying the attack may have been the work of Russian government hackers, but the White House said it could not comment on the identification of the source.

Biden was speaking hours later Russian President Vladimir Putin He had claimed the “partial” withdrawal of Russian troops from the Ukrainian border.

When asked about the reason for Tuesday’s withdrawal, Putin was not forthcoming. “It is a partial withdrawal of forces from our maneuver areas,” he said in response to a question during a press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Schulz. “What is there to comment on?”

Biden made it clear in his televised address that the United States is not convinced by the Kremlin’s claims to withdraw.

We have not yet verified the return of Russian military units to their original bases. Indeed, our analysts indicate that they are still in a very dangerous situation,” the president said. For now, the fact remains that Russia has more than 150,000 soldiers besieging Ukraine, Belarus and along the Ukrainian border. An invasion is still clearly possible.

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Russia has long denied planning to invade Ukraine, saying it can train troops on its soil as it sees fit. And it lobbied for a range of security guarantees from the West, including a guarantee that Ukraine would never join NATO.

Biden reiterated the position of the United States and NATO that he would not waive the right of Ukraine and other countries to determine their security policy, including alliances.

The United States has put on the table concrete ideas for creating a security environment in it Europe. We are proposing new arms control measures, new transparency measures, and new strategic stability measures.” “We are ready to take practical, results-oriented steps that can enhance our common security. However, we will not sacrifice basic principles. Countries have the right to sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Addressing the Russian people directly, the president said: “You are not our enemy, and I don’t think you want a bloody, destructive war against Ukraine, a country and people with whom you share such deep bonds of family history and culture.”

“If Russia invades in the coming days and weeks, the human cost to Ukraine will be enormous,” he said, adding that it would be a “self-inflicted wound” for Russia.

He also prepared Americans for the consequences, saying, “I’m not going to pretend this will be painless, it could have an impact on our energy prices.” He pledged his administration would take steps to mitigate this impact.

In another sign that Russia is turning the nail on Ukraine, the The vote of the State Duma On Tuesday to ask Putin to recognize the independence of the two Russian-controlled breakaway regions in the east of the country.

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Noting that he intended to use them as leverage, Putin said he would not recognize the “republics” immediately, but called on NATO to negotiate with him on Russia’s security guarantees before it was “too late”.

We hear that Ukraine is not ready to join NATO. Putin said. “At the same time, they say they won’t join tomorrow. But by the time they get ready for that, it might be too late for us. So we have to decide that question now, for now, in the very near future, we have to have a negotiation process.” regarding this matter.”

The withdrawal was first announced on Tuesday morning by Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov, who described the ongoing exercises in which troops from “virtually all military districts, fleets and airborne forces” took part.

The Defense Ministry released a video, apparently filmed in Crimea, of Russian tanks and other heavy weapons from two brigades being loaded onto railway cars. Other than that, the Russian military provided little information about which troops would be withdrawn and where they would be sent.

“We believe that there is some ground for cautious optimism based on the signals and signals coming from Moscow, that they are ready to engage in a diplomatic effort and we are ready to continue to engage in diplomatic efforts,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Effort.”

Ukrainian officials have said they will not take Moscow at its word on the withdrawal. “A lot of data is constantly being released from [Russia]”So we have a rule: we will believe it when we see it,” said Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister. If we see the withdrawal, we will believe in de-escalation.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov accused the West of manufacturing “obsessive information frenzy”.

We have always said that the forces will return to their bases after the exercises are over. This is the case this time as well.

Schulz arrived in Moscow on Tuesday for meetings with Putin, the latest in a series of visits and phone calls from Western leaders seeking to avoid a possible war through negotiations.

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Putin said he was “ready to work more” with the West on how to de-escalate the crisis on Ukraine’s border, while the German chancellor said diplomatic channels were “not yet exhausted”, at a joint news conference marked by subtle subtle blows and stoking historic discontent.

“We are ready to work together further, ready to go on the path of negotiations,” said Putin, who denied that his country was seeking to invade Ukraine. “Whether we want [war]: of course not. That is why we have made these proposals about negotiations, the results of which should be an agreement on equal security for all countries, including ours. ”

Russia earlier announced the conclusion of military exercises near the Ukrainian border, but social media and satellite images taken in the following days did not show significant changes in the status of Russian forces. Only a small number of troops participated in those exercises.

Many of the troops near the Ukrainian border do not participate in any formal training.

Russia is conducting major joint exercises with Belarus that are scheduled to end on February 20. Western countries said the exercises could be used as cover to prepare for an attack on Ukraine, while Russia said troops would return to the base once the exercises were over.

On Tuesday, Russia also deployed nuclear-capable long-range bombers and fighter jets carrying the latest hypersonic missiles to its air base in Syria for major naval exercises in the region.

Russia’s Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu, met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after his arrival in Syria to oversee the exercises, which represent Russia’s largest naval deployment in the Mediterranean since the Cold War.

Additional reporting by Daniel Bovey in Brussels and Patrick Wintour in London