Putin 'orders' troops to prepare 'full-scale assault' on Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin has reportedly given troops the green light to launch a “full-scale assault” on Ukraine.
A US intelligence assessment, obtained by CNN via an unnamed US official, claims 120 members of Russia’s 160 Battalion Tactical Groups are now stationed 60km from the border of Ukraine. In total, it is less than half of Russia’s entire military.
The US also estimates about 500 fighter planes are within range of Ukraine.
Russia on Sunday rescinded pledges to pull tens of thousands of troops away from the border. Russia claims they were there for military exercises, with an estimated 30,000 Russian forces also in Belarus, Ukraine’s neighbour to the north.
They are among at least 150,000 Russian troops now deployed outside Ukraine’s borders, along with tanks, warplanes, artillery and other war materiel.
A US official also told The Associated Press intelligence suggested Russian front-line commanders have been given orders to begin final preparations for an attack.
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White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the administration has been clear that “we are committed to pursuing diplomacy until the moment an invasion begins".
“We are always ready for diplomacy. We are also ready to impose swift and severe consequences should Russia instead choose war,” Ms Psaki said in statement.
“And currently, Russia appears to be continuing preparations for a full-scale assault on Ukraine very soon.”
Biden and Putin agree to meet
In what appeared to be a last-ditch diplomatic gambit brokered with the aid of French President Emmanuel Macron, the White House said US President Joe Biden has agreed “in principle” to a meeting with Mr Putin, as long as Russia does not in the meantime invade Ukraine.
Mr Macron spoke with Mr Putin on Sunday for about an hour, according to the Elysée Palace. It was the second time the pair have spoken in 24 hours. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are also scheduled to meet on Thursday.
Australian troops unlikely to be called on
As for what it means for Australia, it is unlikely, according to defence experts, that the ADF would be deployed in Ukraine.
John Blaxland, head of the strategic and defence studies centre at the Australian National University, told Yahoo News Australia former Prime Minister Tony Abbott was advised against sending forces in 2014.
“Abbott was advised that our forces would be extremely vulnerable against the Russian military,” Professor Blaxland said.
“He was told we don’t have the army to fight a land war in Eurasia. Also, if the Germans and Canadians aren’t prepared to do it then we won’t either.”
Tension rising in East Ukraine
In the eastern Ukraine regions of Lugansk and Donetsk, separatist leaders have ordered a full military mobilisation and sent more civilians to Russia, which has issued about 700,000 passports to residents of the rebel-held territories.
Claims that Russian citizens are being endangered might be used as justification for military action.
Officials in the separatist territories claim Ukrainian forces launched several artillery attacks over the past day and two civilians were killed during an unsuccessful assault on a village near the Russian border. Ukraine’s military said two soldiers died in firing from the separatist side on Saturday.
“When tension is escalated to the maximum, as it is now, for example, on the line of contact, then any spark, any unplanned incident or any minor planned provocation can lead to irreparable consequences,” Mr Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said in an interview that aired Sunday on Russian state television.
with The Associated Press
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