James Politi and Aime Williams in Washington and Henry Foy and Sam Fleming in Brussels
The Pentagon warned that Russia had now amassed enough military assets along the Ukrainian border to launch an invasion at any time, a buildup that gave the Kremlin a “range of options” including an attack aimed at occupying all the countries.
Comments by US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin during a Pentagon press conference on Friday mark an escalation in US warnings about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions.
The US has said it fears a Russian attack on Ukraine by mid-February, and US President Joe Biden warned his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday that there was a ‘clear possibility’ of such a decision.
Austin said Russia has been mobilizing its forces for a possible invasion at a “constant and steady pace.” “We don’t believe that President Putin has made the final decision to use these forces against Ukraine. . . he clearly now has that ability,” he said.
Austin added, “There are multiple options available to him, including seizing major cities and territories, but also of course provocative political acts like recognizing separatist territories.”
General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a senior US Army officer, also described the buildup of Russian forces in alarming detail.
“With 100,000 troops – you have combined arms formations, ground maneuvers, artillery, rockets, you have air and all the other pieces that go with it. There is potential that they could throw with very, very little warning,” he said.
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