94,000 Russian soldiers on Ukrainian border raise fears of invasion – .

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94,000 Russian soldiers on Ukrainian border raise fears of invasion – .


MOSCOW – The Kremlin said on Friday that President Vladimir Putin would call for binding guarantees preventing NATO expansion in Ukraine during a planned call with US President Joe Biden, while Ukraine’s Defense Minister warned that Russia could invade his country next month.

Tensions between Russia and the West have intensified in recent weeks, with Ukraine, the United States and other Western allies growing fears that a build-up of Russian troops near the Ukrainian border will signal the Moscow’s intention to invade. The United States has threatened the Kremlin with the most severe sanctions to date if it launches an attack, while Russia has warned that any presence of NATO troops and weapons on Ukrainian soil will cross a “line. Red “.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told lawmakers on Friday that the number of Russian troops near Ukraine and in Russia-annexed Crimea is estimated at 94,300, warning that a “large-scale escalation” is possible in January.

Amid mounting tensions, Putin’s foreign adviser Yuri Ushakov told reporters on Friday that arrangements had been made for a Putin-Biden appeal in the coming days, adding that the date would be announced after Moscow and Washington will have finalized the details.

On Thursday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Stockholm to demand that Russia withdraw its troops from the border with Ukraine. Lavrov countered that the West was “playing with fire” by denying Russia a say in any further NATO expansion into the countries of the former Soviet Union.

Ukraine has been pushing to join the alliance, which keeps the membership promise but has not set a timeline.

Ushakov noted that during the call with Biden, Putin will ask for a document that would exclude any NATO movement further east. Russia wants a legally binding agreement that “would exclude any further expansion of NATO to the East and the deployment of weapons systems that would threaten us in the territories of neighboring countries, including Ukraine,” he said. he declares.

The Kremlin aide said Russia has long advocated such deals, pointing out that they have become particularly acute amid the latest build-up of tension, adding that “it just can’t go on like this.”

He claimed that in the early 1990s, Soviet and Russian leaders received verbal assurances from Western leaders that NATO would not expand eastward, but that the West reneged on those promises over the course of of the following years, which saw the countries of the former Soviet bloc and the former Soviet republics join the Alliance.

Russia and Ukraine remained locked in a tense standoff after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and supported a separatist insurgency in the industrial center of eastern Ukraine, known as the name of Donbass. More than 14,000 people have died in the fighting.

The Ukrainian defense minister warned on Friday that an escalation “is a probable scenario, but not certain, and our task is to avoid it”.

“Our intelligence service analyzes all scenarios, including the worst,” Reznikov said. “The most likely time when (Russia) will be ready for escalation is at the end of January. “

Konstantin Kosachev, deputy speaker of the upper house of parliament, reiterated Moscow’s denial that he was considering an attack.

“We have no plan to attack Ukraine. We do not have increased military activity near the borders of Ukraine. There is no preparation underway for an offensive, ”Kosachev told Russian state broadcaster Russia-24.

The Kremlin has expressed fear that Ukraine will use force to regain control of the rebel east. And adding to the tensions, the head of a self-proclaimed Russian-backed breakaway republic in eastern Ukraine said on Thursday he could turn to Moscow for military assistance if the region faced a Ukrainian attack.

Reznikov said Ukraine will do nothing to provoke Russia but is ready to react in the event of an attack. “Ukraine is more interested in a political and diplomatic resolution,” said the Minister of Defense.

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Karmanau reported from Kiev, Ukraine. Dasha Litvinova in Moscow contributed to this report

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