James Politi and Aime Williams in Washington and Henry Foy and Sam Fleming in Brussels
The Pentagon has warned that Russia has now amassed sufficient military assets along the Ukrainian border to launch an invasion at any moment, a build-up that has given the Kremlin a “range of options”, including an attack aimed at occupying the entire country.
The comments from US defence secretary Lloyd Austin at a Pentagon press conference on Friday mark an escalation of US warnings about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions.
The US has said it fears a Russian attack on Ukraine between now and the middle of February, and Joe Biden, US president, warned his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday that there was a “distinct possibility” of such a move.
Austin said Russia had been mobilising its forces for a potential invasion at a “consistent and steady pace”. “We don’t believe that president Putin has made a final decision to use these forces against Ukraine . . . he clearly now has that capability,” he said.
Austin added: “There are multiple options available to him, including the seizure of cities and significant territories, but also of course, provocative political acts like the recognition of breakaway territories.”
General Mark Milley, the chair of the joint chiefs of staff, and the top US military officer, also described the build-up of Russia’s forces with alarming details.
“With 100,000 troops — you’ve got combined arms formations, ground manoeuvre, artillery, rockets, you’ve got air and all the other piece parts that go with it. There’s a potential that they could launch with very, very little warning,” he said.
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