News from Russia and Ukraine: live updates

Picture A Ukrainian military tank exercise in Donetsk Oblast is abruptly canceled as soldiers carrying weapons and equipment prepare ...


PictureA Ukrainian military tank exercise in Donetsk Oblast is abruptly canceled as soldiers carrying weapons and equipment prepare to move to an undisclosed location.
Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

KYIV, Ukraine — The United States and Russia continued to clash over the fate of Ukraine, with President Biden warning on Thursday that the threat of a Russian attack remained “very high,” even as the Kremlin insisted that he was withdrawing his troops from the border areas and said in writing that he was not planning an invasion.

But Russia repeated its threat of unspecified “military-technical measures” if the United States did not comply with its demands for sweeping changes to security arrangements in Eastern Europe, a signal that President Vladimir V. Putin would use his large-scale military buildup around him. Ukraine to extract concessions from Western nations determined to avoid war.

The Kremlin continued to unbalance the United States and its Western allies, issuing positive notes on diplomacy in a written response to American security proposals, and offering the most detailed account yet of what Mr. Putin said Tuesday he was a “part” withdrawal of the 150,000 troops the United States estimates has massed around Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the State Department announced that Moscow expelled the US deputy ambassador to Russia last week, calling it an “escalation measure” that would hamper diplomatic efforts. Speaking before the United Nations Security Council, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said despite Russian denials, US intelligence believed Putin would launch an assault on Ukraine and challenged Moscow to say no.

Thursday’s dizzying back-and-forth was punctuated by Mr Biden, who said in brief remarks to the White House that while there “was a path” to a diplomatic resolution, he still expected that Mr. Putin is launching an invasion in several days.

“Every indication we have is that they are ready to enter Ukraine,” he said.

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President Biden said he expected Russian President Vladimir V. Putin to carry out an invasion of Ukraine in “several days”, but that a diplomatic resolution was still possible.CreditCredit…TJ Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

Western officials continued to say they had seen no sign of a Russian withdrawal of forces threatening its smaller neighbor. Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III, who met the NATO chief in Brussels, said Russia was continuing to move troops closer to Ukraine’s borders, adding fighter jets and supplying blood in anticipation casualties on the battlefield.

“I was a soldier myself not too long ago,” Mr Austin said. “I know firsthand that you don’t do this stuff for no reason. And you definitely don’t if you’re about to pack your bags and head home.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on Thursday that troops had redeployed hundreds of kilometers from Ukrainian border areas after conducting military exercises.

Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said logistics units from the Western Military District had traveled more than 400 miles from the Kursk region bordering Ukraine and returned to their base in the city ​​of Dzerzhinsk in central Russia.

Several other military groups traveled more than 900 miles by rail with their equipment and were redeployed to Chechnya and Dagestan, he said. Troops currently engaged in military exercises in Belarus, northern Ukraine, will also return to their home bases once the exercises are over, General Konashenkov said in a statement.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry S. Peskov insisted the withdrawal was continuing. “This process takes time,” he said. “They can’t just be lifted into the air and fly away.”

Since late autumn, the number of troops that Russia has sent to the borders near Ukraine has steadily increased. In the first week of January, the US estimated it was around 100,000. That figure rose to 130,000, then on Tuesday Mr Biden put the number at 150,000 – with brigades normally based as far as Siberia joining the force.

On Wednesday, a senior US official, who declined to be named, told reporters that far from ending its deployment, Moscow was adding 7,000 fighters.

Russia has defined the crisis as revolving around its fundamental security. And he says that even the distant prospect of Ukraine joining NATO poses an existential threat.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has once again made it clear that NATO membership is key to his country’s long-term security. “It’s not an ambition,” he said in brief comments to the BBC. “It’s our life.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: News from Russia and Ukraine: live updates
News from Russia and Ukraine: live updates
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