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Blood for the injured is part of Russia’s preparations on Ukraine border, U.S. officials say

A Ukrainian service member fires a next generation light anti-tank weapon (NLAW) supplied by Britain during drills at Ukraine's International Peacekeeping Security Centre near Yavoriv in the Lviv region, Ukraine, January 28, 2022. Ukrainian Defence Ministry/Handout via REUTERS

Three U.S. sources said that a Russian troop build-up along the border with Ukraine includes blood supplies for the injured, confirming U.S. statements that Russia now has the capability to attack its neighbour.

The news: The officials’ comments, made on the condition of anonymity, add to rising U.S. concerns that Russia is plotting a military invasion of Ukraine, despite the fact that it has stockpiled more than 100,000 troops on its borders.

Ukrainian service members operate 2A65 Msta-B howitzers during artillery and anti-aircraft drills near the border with Russian-annexed Crimea in the Kherson region, Ukraine, in this handout picture released January 28, 2022. Press service of the Joint Forces Operation/Handout via REUTERS
  • A written request for comment from the Russian Defence Ministry was not immediately returned.
  • In the crisis over the former Soviet state, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed the West has not answered Moscow’s primary security needs, but he added he was willing to keep talking, giving some confidence that an assault is not imminent.
  • After weeks of personal public silence, Putin gave his first answer to the U.S. and NATO reactions to Russia’s demands in a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron.
  • Putin told Macron, according to the Kremlin, that he would analyse the reactions from Washington and NATO this week before taking any more action.
  • Blood supplies, according to current and former U.S. officials, are crucial markers in judging if Moscow is prepared to invade if Putin decides to do so.
  • According to a French presidential official, Putin stressed in his chat with Macron that he does not want the situation to worsen, repeating conciliatory remarks made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who stated that Moscow does not want conflict.
Osa-AKM surface-to-air missile systems of the Ukrainian Armed Forces are seen during artillery and anti-aircraft drills near the border with Russian-annexed Crimea in the Kherson region, Ukraine, in this handout picture released January 28, 2022. Press Service of the Joint Forces Operation/Handout via REUTERS

What they’re saying: “Attention was drawn to the fact that the U.S. and NATO replies did not take into account Russia’s principal concerns,” the Kremlin said of Putin’s conversation with Macron.

  • Avoiding NATO expansion, not putting offensive weapons near Russia’s borders, and reducing NATO’s “military capabilities and infrastructure” to what they were when former Warsaw Pact members in eastern Europe joined were among the worries highlighted.
  • “The key question was ignored – how the United States and its allies intend to follow the principle of security integrity … that no one should strengthen their security at the expense of another country’s security,” it said.
  • Some of Russia’s requests are non-starters for the U.S. and NATO, but they have kept the door open to talks.
  • As Russia pushes troops and armaments into Belarus for manoeuvres, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the Western military alliance was keeping a careful eye on the situation.
  • He warned that if Russia took more aggressive moves against Ukraine, NATO would be prepared to boost its troop presence in eastern Europe. He also warned that a Russian attack might take several forms, including a cyber-attack, a coup attempt, or sabotage.
  • “From the NATO side we are ready to engage in political dialogue. But we’re also ready to respond if Russia chooses an armed conflict confrontation,” Stoltenberg said in Brussels.
  • According to U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, the U.S. is still focused on combatting Russian disinformation, which might be used as a pretext for assaults on Ukraine.
  • “While we don’t believe that President Putin has made a final decision to use these forces against Ukraine, he clearly now has that capability,” Austin told reporters.
  • He said “there are multiple options available to (Putin) including the seizure of cities and significant territories, but also coercive acts and provocative political acts like the recognition of breakaway territories.”
  • General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Russia’s deployment was unlike anything seen since the Cold War in terms of scale and scope, and that the U.S. strongly advised Russia to stand down.
  • Milley predicted that if Russia invaded, the effect would be “horrific” and result in considerable losses.
  • Lavrov stated that he expects to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in the coming weeks. Their most recent meeting, on January 21, in Geneva, yielded no results.
  • “If it depends on Russia, then there will be no war. We don’t want wars. But we also won’t allow our interests to be rudely trampled, to be ignored,” Lavrov told Russian radio stations.
  • Without going into detail, he stated that the U.S. counter-proposals were superior than NATO’s.
  • The U.S. liked Lavrov’s comment about Russia not wanting to go to war, but “we need to see it backed up by rapid action,” according to a senior U.S. administration official.
  • The official said, speaking on condition of anonymity, that a U.N. Security Council meeting on Monday on Russia’s build-up of military near the Ukrainian border will be “an opportunity for Russia to clarify what it is doing.”
  • The United States and the European Union have warned Russia that if it attacks Ukraine, it would face economic penalties.
Ukrainian service members operate a 2A65 Msta-B howitzer during artillery and anti-aircraft drills near the border with Russian-annexed Crimea in the Kherson region, Ukraine, in this handout picture released January 28, 2022. Press service of the Joint Forces Operation/Handout via REUTERS

What’s going on: President Joe Biden of the United States and Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the European Commission, said they had committed to work together to ensure Europe’s energy security, but gave no further details.

  • A senior Biden administration official told reporters this week that Washington has been in talks with energy-producing countries and firms around the world about a possible diversion of supplies to Europe if Russia invades Ukraine.
  • Officials from the EU have frequently appealed for EU unity on Ukraine, with some unhappy that Germany, which is concerned about energy supplies, has not taken a harsher stance.
  • Russia has ignored requests for its troops to be withdrawn, claiming that it may deploy them as it sees fit on its own soil. It has pointed to the Western response as proof that Russia is the victim of aggression rather than the perpetrator.

Ukraine has stated that a Russian attack is unlikely, but that a costly war is possible. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy slammed a “feeling abroad” that a war had already begun.

President Vladimir Putin said on Friday the United States and NATO had not addressed Russia’s main security demands in their standoff over Ukraine but that Moscow was ready to keep talking
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday said the alliance was ready to increase its troop presence in eastern Europe as Russia, which already has tens of thousands of soldiers near Ukraine’s border, moves soldiers and weapons in Belarus
Russia on Friday sent its strongest signal so far that it is willing to engage with U.S. security proposals and reiterated that it does not want war over Ukraine
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