Russia announced that it will stage nuclear forces drills this weekend after another week of sky-high tensions at the border with Ukraine, while western nations continue to warn that an invasion of the former Soviet state could take place at any time.
The Associated Press reports that the large-scale nuclear drills are intended to show the capabilities of Russia’s nuclear arsenal, which is one of the largest in the world, to other countries.
The U.S. envoy to the Organization for Security and Co-operation said on Friday that Russia has between 169,000 and 190,000 troops at Ukraine’s border, a sharp increase from just several weeks ago. As recently as January 30, there were 100,000 Russian troops arrayed along the border.
Ambassador Michael Carpenter stated “this is the most significant military mobilization in Europe since the Second World War” on Friday. His remarks come one day after other stern warnings were given by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who spoke before a meeting of the UN Security Council.
At that meeting Blinken stated “As we meet today, the most immediate threat to peace and security is Russia’s looming aggression against Ukraine,” going on to speak in stark terms about the import of that country’s aggressive moves.
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“This is a moment of peril for the lives and safety of millions of people, as well as for the foundation of the United Nations Charter and the rules-based international order that preserves stability worldwide. This crisis directly affects every member of this council and every country in the world,” Blinken declared.
A number of American officials, including President Biden himself, have continually warned of the chances that Russia would invade Ukraine, calling them “very high.”
However, Russia parried earlier this week, claiming that it was scaling back its military presence on the border; this was considered to be false by western countries. U.S. officials told The Washington Post that it was nothing less than a deliberate ruse to mislead the world.
In his address on Thursday, Blinken gave a wide range of options that Russia might use in laying out supposed justifications for invading Ukraine, or so-called false flag operations.
Carpenter stated on Friday “We are aware that Russia is intent on creating a pretext to justify an invasion into Ukraine. Therefore, we must resolutely rebut the false narrative about a Ukrainian ‘escalation,’ which finds no evidence whatsoever in the reports of the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission.”
Meanwhile, attacks continue to occur in Ukraine as Russian-backed separatists started shelling the village of Stanytsa Lugansk in the Luhansk region of the country, even hitting the playground at a school building.
Responding to that event, Oksana Markarova, Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.S., called the act “a brutal violation of the cease-fire” agreement that is in place.
Later on Friday, President Biden will participate in a call with NATO leaders while the allies continue to bolster their military presence as a result of the Russian actions.
NATO has threatened harsh sanctions against Russia if it did in fact attack Ukraine, while experts say financial transactions with the country could be stopped altogether as a means of deterring it from attacking.
The U.S. has denied that any of its own troops would go to Ukraine to fight, but it has repositioned thousands of troops around Eastern Europe.