Ukrainian officials have attempted to ease concerns about a possible Russian invasion, telling their citizens there is “no reason to panic,” despite the US and its NATO allies preparing to provide additional support.
On Monday, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said the situation is “under control,” while Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov affirmed Russia’s armed forces had not yet formed battle groups “which would have indicated that tomorrow they could launch an offensive.”
“There are risky scenarios. They’re possible and probable in the future,” Reznikov told Ukraine’s ICTV in an interview before adding that “as of today … such a threat doesn’t exist.”
Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, sounded the same message, saying the military buildup “is not news.”
“As of today, we don’t see any grounds for statements about a full-scale offensive on our country,” Danilov said.
Russia has repeatedly denied intentions to invade Ukraine, calling Western concerns about the prospect “hysteria.”
The Kremlin has also attempted to flip the standoff’s narrative, accusing NATO allies of using Ukraine for their own “provocations” against Moscow.
On Tuesday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov accused the US of “fomenting tensions” around the Eastern European country.
Russia has requested the US and NATO rule out Ukraine from ever joining the Atlantic alliance, citing security concerns. While the US has labeled the demand a “non-starter,” officials are expected to provide the Kremlin with a written response to Russia’s request later this week.
Concerns over increased military action by Moscow have grown in recent days, as the US has begun to evacuate families of diplomats from Ukraine and NATO has announced plans to increase its own military presence in Eastern Europe.
On Monday, the Pentagon announced it would be putting up to 8,500 US-based troops on “heightened alert” in the event NATO decides to activate its 40,000-strong NATO Response Force (NRF) in response to an invasion.
There is no decision to deploy the troops yet, and they would only be a part of NRF, which only the alliance can activate.
“We’ll continue to provide updates in the coming days about these decisions,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said. “But specifically this will ensure that the United States and our commitment to the NRF has — is consistent with their readiness for rapid deployment again, if activated.”
Despite the Ukraine government’s messaging that an invasion is not imminent, there was still a reminder of the Russian threat Tuesday when Ukraine’s SBU security service rounded up saboteurs it said had the backing of Moscow’s “special services.”
In a statement, the SBU said the group was planning armed attacks on urban infrastructure in Ukraine’s border region in order to “destabilize the internal situation.” The security service added that two people were arrested following operations in the eastern city of Kharkiv and the western city of Zhytomyr.
Earlier this month, the Biden administration warned it had received intelligence that Russian operatives had been deployed to conduct a “false flag” operation against Moscow’s proxies in eastern Ukraine that would serve as a signal for an invasion to begin. The SBU said Tuesday that one of the two people arrested had Russian citizenship.
Russia has amassed roughly 100,000 troops across several points along the Ukrainian border and has begun to move military weapons, equipment and troops into Belarus — stoking fears of an invasion from the north.
In addition to bolstering NATO forces, the US has begun to ramp up material support for Ukraine in recent days, sending two shipments of lethal aid to the country over the weekend and approving American-made weapons to be sent to Ukraine from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
Reznikov graciously accepted the US weapons over the weekend, posting photos of the delivery in a tweet.
“The second bird in Kyiv! More than 80 tons of weapons to strengthen Ukraine’s defense capabilities from our friends in the USA! And this is not the end,” he wrote, sharing a photo of a dog sitting on the materials.
Additional shipments were expected to arrive Tuesday.