August 14, 2022

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A senior Russian diplomat dismissed new US military and intelligence assessments – which estimated Russia...

A senior Russian diplomat dismissed new US military and intelligence assessments – which estimated Russia could seize Kiev in days and leave up to 50,000 civilians killed or wounded – as alarmist and as unlikely as an attack by Washington on London.
Madness and scaremongering continues. What if we would say that US could seize London in a week and cause 300,000 civilian deaths?” Russia’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Dmitry Polyanskiy, tweeted yesterday.
And parliamentary deputy Artem Turov, a member of President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party, accused the United States of disseminating fake information and of “doing everything possible to fan a new conflict”.
However, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan defended the updated US military and intelligence assessments, briefed to lawmakers and European partners over the past several days, which were US officials’ bleakest appraisal yet of the security situation in Ukraine.
“We’re in the window where something could happen. That is, a military escalation and invasion of Ukraine could happen at any time,” Mr Sullivan said on NBC News’s Meet the Press, adding: “We believe that the Russians have put in place the capabilities to mount a significant military operation into Ukraine, and we have been working hard to prepare a response.”
The office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said a diplomatic solution was more likely than war.
“An honest assessment of the situation suggests that the chance of finding a diplomatic solution for de-escalation is still substantially higher than the threat of further escalation,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said in a statement.
The new US intelligence assessments came as the Biden administration was also warning that Moscow was considering filming a fake attack against Russian territory or Russian-speaking people by Ukrainian forces as a pretext to invade its neighbour – a claim the Kremlin has strenuously denied.
Seven people familiar with the assessments said Mr Putin has 70pc of the combat power he needs for an assault that – under the most extreme scenario – could quickly take out the capital, Kiev, and remove Mr Zelenskiy, Ukraine’s democratically elected president.
Such an invasion, they said, could trigger a refugee crisis in Europe as up to five million people flee.
As of Friday, 83 Russian battalion groups, with about 750 troops each, were arrayed for a possible assault. That is up from 60 two weeks ago.
The White House has said the United States does not have information that Mr Putin has made a decision to invade.
But satellite imagery and other intelligence indicate he has amassed more than 100,000 troops and equipment on the border with Ukraine – one Western security official put the number at 130,000 – potentially positioning for what could become the largest military land offensive in Europe since World War II.
“Our worry would be that you don’t park battle groups on the border of another country twice and do nothing,” one European official said, referring to an earlier build-up last year. “I think that’s the real fear that I have. [Putin’s] now put them all out there. If he does nothing again, what does that say to the wider international community about the might of Russia?”
The European official and others familiar with the assessments spoke on the condition of anonymity in discussing intelligence matters.
The Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT), a Russian analytical team that uses open-source data to track Russian military movements, reported yesterday that some Russian forces had moved from a base in Yelnya, in the Smolensk region of southern Russia, closer to the Ukrainian border.
According to CIT, a “massive” Russian base at Yelnya was nearly empty, in what it described as a “dangerous” development. CIT said this suggested that “one scenario of a Russian attack is a deep thrust south towards Chernihiv and possibly Kiev”.
Chernihiv is a city in northern Ukraine close to the Belarusian border, less than 150km north of Kiev.
The group said that transfers of Russian soldiers to the regions of Crimea, Rostov and Kursk in southern Russia were also worrying.
As the United States moved to strengthen Nato defences in eastern Europe, the head of the Belarusian Security Council, Alexander Volfovich, said there would be “very large” military manoeuvres with Russian forces in southern Belarus in coming days, in response to tensions between Nato and Russia over Ukraine. 
US officials are concerned that the massive Russia-Belarus military exercise, set to begin on Thursday, could be used as part of a multipronged invasion of Ukraine.

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