US warns of dire toll if Putin pursues all-out invasion of Ukraine

Mr Putin has also deployed special operations forces – some 1,500 troops – near and even within the Ukrainian border, officials told lawm...

Mr Putin has also deployed special operations forces – some 1,500 troops – near and even within the Ukrainian border, officials told lawmakers. These troops, they said, work closely with Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU, which has in the past carried out cyberattacks and other attacks on enemies.

European officials tend to be more skeptical that Mr Putin would try to take the country in a full-scale invasion. Some believe he would seek to take over the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine, where a crushing proxy war has been going on since 2014.

Another theory is that Mr. Putin could expand this operation with the aim of annexing all of eastern Ukraine, up to the Dnieper. Along the way, he might try to decimate the Ukrainian troops in that part of the country, about half of the Ukrainian army. This could sow panic in the western part of Ukraine – where resistance to Russia may be highest – and cause people to flee the country. Over time, this could lead to senior government officials fleeing or attempting to rule from exile.

US and EU officials have made it clear that a physical attack on Ukraine’s borders would lead to huge sanctions on Russian banks, trade restrictions on semiconductors and other high-tech items, and the freezing of oligarchs’ accounts. and Russian leaders. But there is far less unanimity, as President Biden himself has acknowledged, on how to respond to a “minor incursion.” Or even what a minor incursion might be.

European and American officials fear that Mr Putin is trying to stage a coup in Kiev. Another possibility is a Russian-engineered cyberattack that attempts to bring down part or all of Ukraine’s electrical and communications infrastructure, similar to attacks in 2015 and 2016 on parts of the country’s power grid.

European officials say it is unclear how Western allies would react to such an attack. If they believed that cyber ops were a face-saving way for Mr. Putin to act and then retreat, they note, there might be a temptation to defuse and not seek to impose major sanctions, especially if there were few human casualties. On the other hand, a cyberattack could be the prelude to a full invasion, essentially cutting off Ukraine’s ability to communicate or track where Russian forces were coming from.

Michael Schwirtz contributed reporting from Kyiv, Ukraine.

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Newsrust - US Top News: US warns of dire toll if Putin pursues all-out invasion of Ukraine
US warns of dire toll if Putin pursues all-out invasion of Ukraine
Newsrust - US Top News
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