The US Department of Defense (Pentagon) said that it had “information indicating that Russia is working to create a pretext for a possible invasion of Ukraine,” while the European Union confirmed its openness to dialogue with Moscow, but not at the expense of its “principles and values.”
She added that Russia “deployed a group of agents inside Ukraine to launch an attack that would be a pretext for the entry of Russian forces.”
For its part, the Ukrainian military intelligence confirmed today, Friday, that the Russian services are preparing “provocations” against Russian soldiers stationed in the Transdniestria region in Moldova, with the aim of accusing Ukraine of being responsible for it.
In turn, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) affirmed its support for Ukraine in the face of cyber-attacks, amid continuing mutual threats between Russia and the West regarding developments in the region.
The Ukrainian military intelligence said – in a statement – that these provocations may target artillery ammunition depots belonging to the Russian Armed Forces.
On Friday, Ukraine was hit by a massive cyber attack that carried a message calling on Ukrainians to “fear and expect the worst.”
At the same time, television in Russia – which has massed more than 100,000 of its forces on the border with Ukraine – broadcast pictures of mobilizing more troops during exercises.
Responsible Ukrainian sources revealed that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky suggested holding a summit with his American counterparts, Joe Biden and Russian Vladimir Putin.
And German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht stressed today, Friday, that NATO will not allow Moscow to blackmail it, and will not accept Russia’s rejection of its expansion.
“Russia does not have the right to refuse on issues related to the alliance and cannot blackmail us. These red lines must be clear in all pending talks,” she told parliament.
“But between these red lines and the outbreak of a military conflict, there is a lot of space to take advantage of,” Lambrecht said, adding that she will meet NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Berlin next week.
And saw the German Foreign Minister Annalina Birbock that relations with Russia must be dealt with now patiently and calmly.
Berbock is expected to meet her Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, next Tuesday in Moscow. “We are doing everything necessary to avoid any further escalation,” she added.
open to dialogue
“We are open to dialogue with Russia, but this is not at the expense of our freedom, our sovereignty, our independence or our values,” said Josep Borrell, EU foreign policy chief.
Borrell announced that Europe had agreed to more coordination with Washington, NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, explaining that any Russian aggression against Ukraine would be responded to strongly and in consultation with partners.
Borrell renewed Europe’s rejection of all Russian attempts to create spheres of influence in Europe.
On Friday, Stoltenberg announced that NATO and Ukraine would sign an agreement to strengthen their cooperation in the fight against cyber attacks, which would give Kiev access to the allies’ expertise in combating “malicious programmes.”
This comes after Ukraine announced today that a number of government websites have been subjected to a major cyber attack, against the backdrop of high tensions between Western countries and Russia.
Borrell stressed that Europe supports Ukraine and is ready to help it in the face of cyber attacks.
The European Union is mobilizing “all its resources” to help Ukraine in the wake of the cyber attack on government websites. All EU governments were asked to participate, “even if Ukraine is not a member” of the bloc, Borrell said.
Swedish Foreign Minister Anne Linde said the cyber attack was “of the kind that we have been warned of and of which we have been afraid.” She added that the attack “raises tensions (…) so we must be very careful in our response to Russia.”
“If there are attacks on Ukraine, we will be firm, strong and firm in our response,” she added.
On the other hand, Lavrov said today, Friday, that the possible Russian response in the event of the failure of security talks with the West may include the deployment of military equipment.
This came in statements made by the Russian Foreign Minister during his annual press conference in Moscow.
Russia has drawn up a set of security guarantees it wants from the United States and NATO, and says it expects a written response to the proposals next week.
Lavrov said on Friday that his country was waiting for a written response from Washington and NATO to its proposals for security guarantees on the tension on the border with Ukraine.
The Russian minister affirmed his country’s readiness to discuss the demands of security guarantees, and that it “is waiting for the West to present its positions and arguments,” but added, “We will not wait forever for a response to our demands for security guarantees.”
The Russian Foreign Minister accused the West of contributing to the development of events in a negative way, adding, “The possibilities of conflicts are accumulating in the world.” He said the state of relations between Russia “and its Western partners is getting worse.”
He explained that his country is currently evaluating work with the West, and is ready for any development that may result from Ukraine’s inclusion in NATO. “They demand that we withdraw our forces, but we estimate that Western countries will increase the military build-up on Russia’s borders,” Lavrov said.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Thursday that the United States is “prepared” for all scenarios with Russia, whether to continue dialogue or provide a “firm response” if Ukraine is attacked.
At a White House news conference, Sullivan said, “We will now discuss with our allies and partners the steps that we will take.”
According to US intelligence, the Russians have not yet decided on a possible invasion of Ukraine.
“The intelligence community has not concluded that the Russians have made a decisive decision to take military action in Ukraine,” Sullivan said.
“We are ready for all scenarios, we are ready to make progress at the negotiating table, and we are ready to take the necessary and appropriate steps to defend our allies, support our partners, and respond to any arrogant aggression that may occur,” he told reporters.