‘Only president Putin knows what he is going to do next, but next week would seem pivotal’
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that the Kremlin was laying the groundwork for an attack through a social media disinformation campaign framing Kiev as the aggressor.
Speaking on Friday, Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the Commons defence committee, said: “I am afraid an invasion by Russian forces is inevitable and imminent and we have allowed this to happen.
“We had the opportunity to place sufficient military hardware and personnel in Ukraine to make president Putin think twice about invading but we failed to do so.”
He added: “Only president Putin knows what he is going to do next, but next week would seem pivotal.
“He has negotiated himself into a corner and after Nato refused to bow to his threats seemingly only one option remains.”
Tweeting on Saturday, foreign secretary Liz Truss, who alongside other Nato members condemned Russia’s military build-up on the Ukraine border, has called on Moscow to “halt its aggression.”
She said: “Russia is waging a disinformation campaign intended to destabilise and justify an invasion of its sovereign neighbour Ukraine.
“Russia must halt its aggression, deescalate and engage in meaningful talks.”
On Friday, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow would not wait indefinitely for a Western response to its demands that both the US and Nato guarantee that the military alliance will not expand eastwards. He said he expects a written answer next week.
He added Nato’s deployments and drills near Russia’s borders pose a security challenge that must be addressed immediately.
“We have run out of patience,” Mr Lavrov said at a news conference. “The West has been driven by hubris and has exacerbated tensions in violation of its obligations and common sense.”
Yesterday, the Russian ministry of defence shared footage of tanks and weapons being loaded onto trains. Moscow described the exercise as being part of an inspection drill to test long-distance artillery.
“This is likely cover for the units being moved towards Ukraine,” Rob Lee, a US-based military analyst, said.
On the same day, a major cyberattack was launched on Ukraine – targeting more than a dozen government websites – with suspected Russian hackers sending a warning to Ukrainians to “be afraid and expect the worst”.
“As a result of a massive hacking attack, the websites of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a number of other government agencies are temporarily down. Our specialists are already working on restoring the work of IT systems,” a Ukrainian foreign ministry spokesperson said on Friday.
On Friday morning, Josep Borrell, the EU’s top diplomat, condemned the cyberattack and said the bloc would support Kiev.
“We are going to mobilise all our resources to help Ukraine to tackle this cyberattack. Sadly, we knew it could happen,” he told reporters at a gathering of EU foreign leaders in Brest, France.”
“It’s difficult to say [who is behind it]. I can’t blame anybody as I have no proof, but we can imagine,” he added.