Russia-Ukraine tensions: US intelligence warns Russia could invade several cities across Ukraine

Russia-Ukraine tensions: US intelligence warns Russia could invade several cities across Ukraine
Ukrainian servicemen drive a tank during drills at a training ground in unknown location in Ukraine, in this handout picture released February 18, 2022. Ukrainian Joint Forces Operation Press Service/Handout via REUTERS

The backstory:

  • Russia invaded and annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine (a former Soviet state) back in 2014, which caused it to be kicked out of the international military alliance, The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
  • Today, there are an estimated 100,000 troops at the Russian-Ukrainian border, worrying people that Russia is looking to invade again, eight years after the first invasion.
  • Russia denies it intends to invade and says that the troops have been positioned there for self-defense. Meanwhile, they’ve sent some demands to the West, including banning Ukraine from ever entering NATO. The United States responded by writing to Russia saying that they wouldn’t ban Ukraine but would find ways to work with Russia where appropriate.
  • Last Friday, President Biden said that, based on US intelligence, he was convinced that Putin had decided to invade Ukraine. He added that while there is still room for diplomacy, he expects an invasion within the next few days.
  • Meanwhile, earlier this month, Russia sent 30,000 troops to Belarus, a close ally of Russia which has a long border with Ukraine, for 10 days of joint military drills.
  • Russia has said that these drills are legal, and the troops will leave Belarus after exercises finish on the 20th of this month.

The development:

  • After Biden said that the US and allies believed that Putin had ordered an attack on Ukraine, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov responded.
  • “The fact is that this directly leads to an increase in tension. And when tension is escalated to the maximum, as it is now, for example, on the line of contact (in eastern Ukraine), then any spark, any unplanned incident or any minor planned provocation can lead to irreparable consequences."
  • “The daily exercise of announcing a date for Russia to invade Ukraine is a very bad practice," he said on Sunday to Rossiya 1 state TV.
  • Meanwhile, NATO member countries met in Munich for an annual security conference, where Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called for an immediate ceasefire in the eastern part of the country, where clashes between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces have intensified recently.
  • He also said that while he was grateful for the help from NATO members, more needed to be done.
  • The military drills in Belarus, which were scheduled to wrap up on Sunday, have been extended indefinitely. The extension was announced by both Russia and Belarus and came after NATO recently deployed more troops eastward.
  • According to three people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified, the US has told its allies that Russia could target more cities across Ukraine.
  • Aside from Kyiv, the cities that could be attacked include Kharkiv in the northeast of the country and Odessa and Kherson in the south.

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