Washington – Some airlines canceled flights to the Ukrainian capital and soldiers there were unloading new shipments of weapons from NATO members on Sunday amid warnings from the United States of a possible Russian invasion, but despite the bleak outlook, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy sought project confidence.
Zelenskyy spoke with his American counterpart Joe Biden for about an hour, insisting that the Ukrainians have their country under “safe and reliable protection” from what is feared to be an attack by much more powerful Russian armed forces, aides said. The White House said the two agreed to continue their efforts at deterrence and diplomacy in an attempt to prevent a Russian offensive.
The Biden administration has increasingly expressed concerns that Russia will stage an incident in the coming days to provoke a false pretext to invade Ukraine.RELATED
Recent findings by US and European intelligence services have raised concerns that Russia may seek action against a Ukrainian military exercise scheduled for Tuesday in eastern Ukraine to carry out a “false flag” operation, according to two people familiar with the matter who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak.
US intelligence officials believe an attack on military exercises is just one of several options Russia has weighed for a possible false flag operation. The White House has stressed that it is uncertain whether President Vladimir Putin has made the final decision to invade.
Russian forces are massing near the north, east and south of Ukraine in what the Kremlin insists are military exercises.
A US official updated the Biden administration’s estimate of Russian troops stationed near Ukraine’s borders to more than 130,000, an increase from the more than 100,000 the US had publicly mentioned in previous weeks. The official requested anonymity so he could comment on the US government’s findings.
Zelenskyy has repeatedly played down warnings from Washington, questioning increasingly strident statements by US officials in recent days that Russia may be planning to invade Ukraine as early as midweek.
“We are aware of all the risks, we understand that there are risks,” the Ukrainian president declared in a live broadcast. “If you, or anyone else, have any additional information regarding a 100% invasion of Russia starting on the 16th, we ask that you share it with us,” he added.
But while Zelenskyy has urged avoiding panic for fear it could undermine Ukraine’s economy, he and his civilian and military authorities continue to prepare for defense, which has included requesting and receiving weapons from the United States and other NATO members.
A military cargo plane landed Sunday with US-made Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and ammunition from NATO member Lithuania, which will be used to bolster the country’s defenses against any air attack.
Zelenskyy dressed in military uniform over the weekend during a tank and helicopter exercise near Ukraine’s border with Crimea, a peninsula annexed by Russia. In the neighboring city of Kalanchak, some expressed disbelief that Putin would actually launch his forces against the country.
“I don’t think Russia will attack us,” said Boris Cherepenko, a resident. “I have friends in Sakhalin, in Krasnodar,” he noted, referring to Russian regions. “I do not believe it”.
In Kiev, others expressed uncertainty as to whether a possible Russian action would be economic or military, or whether it would actually happen. A woman, Alona Buznitskaya, demonstrating her position on a street in the capital, said calmly as she held signs reading “I love Ukraine”.
“One should always be ready for anything, and then you will have nothing to fear,” he said.
The United States has largely not made public the evidence it says is supporting its more specific warnings about Russia’s possible plans or when it would act.
“We’re not going to give Russia an opportunity to spring a surprise here, to suddenly launch some situation against Ukraine or the world,” US national security adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN on Sunday, referring to the US warnings. .