U.S. Secretary of Defense says Russia stocking up blood supplies, still building up forces on Ukraine’s border
Russia is continuing to slowly build up its military presence along Ukraine’s borders and is “stocking up its blood supply,” U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said at a press conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Feb. 17.
According to Austin, Russia is also “sharpening its readiness” in the Black Sea and launching more combat and support aircrafts.
"I was a soldier myself not that long ago,” Austin, a retired general, said.
“I know firsthand that you don't do these sorts of things for no reason. And you certainly don't do them if you're getting ready to pack up and go home.”
Commenting on the recent escalation of shelling by Russian proxies in the Donbas, Austin said that the United States had been warning for some time that Russia “might do something like this to justify a military conflict.” He added that Washington and its allies would stay vigilant.
U.S. President Joe Biden said on Feb. 17 that he sees the threat of a new Russian invasion of Ukraine to be “very high” in the near future. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said Russia plans to manufacture a pretext for its attack.
Russia has been building up military presence along Ukrainian borders since the end of Oct. 2021. On Feb. 16, CNN, citing Ukrainian intelligence, reported that there were more than 148,000 Russian forces on the Ukrainian border, including more than 126,000 ground troops – but not enough for a full-scale invasion.
The Russian Federation has officially denied plans to carry out a large-scale invasion of Ukraine, but continues to provide arms and orders to its proxy forces in the Donbas.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has again said that his country is ready to defend itself against a Russian invasion, regardless of the date.
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