Published On: February 12, 2022 08:00 AM NPT By: Reuters
WASHINGTON/MOSCOW, Feb 12: Americans in Ukraine should leave within 48 hours as Russia could attack at any time, likely with an air assault, the White House said on Friday as Moscow accused Western nations of lying to distract from their own aggressive acts.
The Kremlin, jostling for influence in post-Cold War Europe, rejected a joint Western diplomatic response as disrespectful.
It wants security guarantees including a promise of no missile deployments near its borders, that Kyiv never joins NATO and a scaling back of the alliance's military infrastructure.
The West describes Russia's main demands as "non-starters" but is willing to talk about arms control and confidence-building steps as President Joe Biden's administration said Moscow has more than 100,000 troops massed on the border, enough to invade.
"The risk is now high enough and the threat is now immediate enough," White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters.
"If a Russian attack on Ukraine proceeds, it is likely to begin with aerial bombing and missile attacks that could obviously kill civilians without regard to their nationality."
U.S. intelligence believes a rapid assault on Kyiv was also possible and that Russian President Vladimir Putin could order an invasion before the Winter Olympics end on Feb. 20, Sullivan said, adding it remains unclear whether such a command has been given.
After Sullivan's briefing, Russia's Deputy U.N. Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy appeared to mock the comments:
"Some reasonable people were hoping U.S.-fanned hysteria was waning," he posted on Twitter. "Maybe they put a jinx on it, because scaremongers have clearly got second wind. Our troops are still on our territory and I wonder if the U.S. will invade Ukraine itself - someone has to, after such a panic campaign."
Putin and Biden will speak by phone on Saturday, the White House and Russian media said. Russia's TASS news agency said Putin will speak with French President Emmanuel Macron on the same day.
The EU and NATO alliance delivered a joint reply to Russia this week on behalf of their member states as diplomatic efforts continue to try to diffuse the crisis.
Russia on Friday said it expected individual answers from each country, and called the collective response "a sign of diplomatic impoliteness and disrespect".
It later said that Western countries, with help from the media, were spreading false information about its intentions to try to distract attention from their own aggressive actions.
Washington will send 3,000 extra troops to Poland in coming days to try and help reassure NATO allies, four U.S. officials told Reuters. They are in addition to 8,500 already on alert for deployment to Europe if needed. read more
Earlier, commercial satellite images from a U.S. firm showed new Russian military deployments at several sites near the border.
Biden told NBC News on Thursday that things in Ukraine "could go crazy quickly," and on Friday held a call about the crisis with the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Poland and Romania, as well as the heads of NATO and the EU.
The leaders agreed to make coordinated efforts to deter Russian aggression, including by being ready to impose "massive consequences and severe economic costs" if it chose military escalation, the White House said after the call.
Britain, Japan, Latvia, Norway and the Netherlands also told their citizens to leave Ukraine immediately. Israel said it was evacuating relatives of embassy staff.
U.S. officials believe the crisis could be reaching a critical point, with rhetoric from Moscow hardening, six Russian warships reaching the Black Sea, and more Russian military equipment arriving in Belarus.
"We continue to see very troubling signs of Russian escalation, including new forces arriving at the Ukrainian border," said Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Stocks extended declines in the late afternoon, with the S&P 500 index recently down around 1.9%. Gold and oil prices rose. The rouble fell to its lowest level against the dollar since March 2020. read more
Moscow denies planning to invade Ukraine, but says it could take unspecified "military-technical" action if its demands are not met. This week it launched joint military exercises in neighbouring Belarus and naval drills in the Black Sea.
Diplomatic efforts have so far failed to yield results.
Four-way talks in Berlin between Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France on Thursday made no progress.
Russia openly mocked British foreign minister Liz Truss when she visited on Thursday and there was no breakthrough after talks between Putin and Macron earlier in the week.
"I'm not going to speculate as to (Putin's) motivations, his intentions, or, at this point, his decisions," said Sullivan. "All I will say is that we are ready either way."
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