The situation is heating up: Russia is taking out its diplomats from Ukraine and sending troops to Belarus, the US Secretary of State is urgently going to Kiev
Russia has removed nearly 50 people from its consulates in Kiev and Lvov, according to a senior Ukrainian security official. According to him, diplomats from two more Russian consulates in Ukraine are also preparing to leave. Kommersant.
On January 5, 18 people left Ukraine, "mostly the children and wives of Russian diplomats." After that, about 30 more people left Kiev and Lvov. How many more people the Russian side plans to take out is not specified. Note that Russia also has consulates in Odessa and Kharkov. Nothing is reported about them.
The US administration said they knew about the impending evacuation.
“We have information indicating that the Russian government was preparing to evacuate members of diplomatic families from the Russian embassy in Ukraine in late December and early January,” an unnamed US official said.
“The Russian Embassy in Kiev is operating normally,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said that it had not received information about the departure of the Russians.
US authorities believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin "has not yet decided to invade" Ukraine. The evacuation may indicate "an impending attack", although "there were no other signals about this." The build-up of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine is not going as fast as the Pentagon predicted a month ago.
However, the Ukrainian authorities fear that Russian troops deployed to Belarus for exercises “will remain there indefinitely, leaving Ukraine open to attack from the north, east and south.”
“We will be completely surrounded by equal forces,” said a senior Ukrainian official.
American intelligence said that the likelihood of a Russian invasion of Ukraine increases as the weather gets colder. According to foreign media, Western countries expect Russia to attack Ukraine in early 2022. The Kremlin called such statements unfounded. The Russian Foreign Ministry said that the United States spread these rumors in order to have a pretext for the attack itself. In Washington, they said that they had developed 18 scenarios in case tensions around Ukraine escalated. US senators have also drafted a new anti-Russian sanctions bill that proposes restrictions on Vladimir Putin and several major Russian banks.
Russia and Belarus to hold exercises to repel external aggression
Moscow and Minsk will rehearse against external aggression by holding joint military exercises in Belarus in February, the Russian and Belarusian military said amid heightened tensions with the West over Ukraine. reports the BBC.
Presidents Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko agreed on the exercises back in December.
Russian military and equipment began to arrive in Belarus on January 17 to participate in the verification of the two countries' response forces, which should pass near the western border with Poland and Lithuania, as well as near the southern border with Ukraine.
The West has recently been expressing fears about a possible invasion of Ukraine by tens of thousands of Russian troops concentrated near the border. Russia denies such plans.
The purpose of the exercises will be “working out the tasks of suppressing and repelling external aggression in the course of conducting a defensive operation, countering terrorism and protecting the interests of the allied state,” as Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin told reporters.
Fomin said the exercises would be held in two stages and end on February 20. 12 Su-35 aircraft, two divisions of S-400 air defense systems and a division of Pantsir-S anti-aircraft missile and gun systems will be transferred to the territory of Belarus from Russia.
He said that the first stage of verification is until February 9. For this period, it is planned to redeploy and create in a short time groupings of troops in “threatened directions”, organize the protection of “important state and military facilities”, and protect the border in the airspace.
“Also, as part of the audit, the issues of the functioning of the unified air defense system,” Fomin added. - For this, Su-35, S-400 and Pantsir-S will be used.
At the second stage of verification, on February 10-20, a joint exercise “Allied Resolve-2022” will be held.
The Belarusian Defense Ministry said that at the first stage of the exercises, both sides will work out the deployment of troops, the defense of military facilities and the assessment of air defense capabilities. At the second stage, they will work out "the destruction of illegal armed formations and sabotage and reconnaissance groups of the enemy." Five training grounds and four airfields will be involved in joint exercises, the Belarusian military department said.
“A situation may arise when the forces and means of the regional grouping will not be enough to guarantee the security of the allied state,” Fomin explained the need for the exercises. “For the overall defense, it will be necessary to involve all the potential.”
He recalled that Presidents Putin and Lukashenko agreed to conduct the exercises on December 29 at a meeting in St. Petersburg.
“We will hold it at the beginning of the year, the military will agree there, in March, February, I don’t know when they will decide,” Putin said then.
Against the backdrop of exacerbation
On January 17, the Belarusian Defense Ministry stated that the exercises were being held against the backdrop of "aggravation of the military-political situation in the world" and "continuing growth of tension in Europe."
Western countries suspect Moscow of preparing an invasion of Ukraine or its imitation. The Russian authorities categorically deny this and demand documented guarantees that NATO will not expand further east to include Ukraine.
Gone last week three rounds of talks between Russian representatives with the United States, NATO and the OSCEwhich did not lead to tangible results. Russian markets have been falling since the end of last week amid the aggravation of the geopolitical situation.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to arrive in Ukraine
It became known that Blinken will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kiev on January 19.
The agenda is still unknown, but it is not difficult to assume that first of all, the issues of security of Ukraine in connection with the concentration of Russian troops near the Ukrainian border, deterrence measures, the provision of additional assistance and weapons, as well as possible sanctions in the event of a massive invasion of the Russian Federation, will be discussed. reports ZN.UA.
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On January 18, the Kommersant newspaper reported that a "contact" between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken would take place in the near future.
“Contact is being worked out,” the Russian Foreign Ministry told Interfax. “In the near future,” the source said.
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