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US defends warnings in standoff with Russia over Ukraine

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Faced with accusations of “alarmism” over a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine, Washington is on the defensive over the credibility of its warnings, even as it keeps certain cards close to its chest. “This is not alarmism. This is simply the facts,” United States (US) Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday in a press conference.

Washington in the autumn started sounding the alarm over a massive buildup of Russian troops on its border with Ukraine, accusing President Valdimir Putin of planning a massive attack. In recent days, President Joe Biden’s administration leaked what US intelligence deems the current situation on the border.

Russia already has 110,000 troops on its ex-Soviet neighbour’s frontiers, nearly 70 per cent of the 150,000 needed for a full-scale invasion, which could be launched by mid-February, according to the intelligence.

But key players have sought to tone down the alarm.

“Do not believe the apocalyptic predictions,” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted on Sunday. In a small concession, the White House last week walked back on qualifying a potential invasion as “imminent”.

This was not long after European authorities had expressed irritation at US rhetoric on the crisis.

“We know very well what the degree of threats are and the way in which we must react, and no doubt we must avoid alarmist reactions,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said at the end of January.

However, on Monday, side by side with Blinken in Washington, he seemed more in step with the Americans.


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