US rebuts Russia on Ukraine troop withdrawal; forces still arriving
WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – Senior US officials, on Wednesday, repeatedly rebutted claims that Russian officials had made on Monday, and again on Tuesday, that Moscow was reducing its troop concentrations around Ukraine.
Washington’s complaints were echoed by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, as well as British and Estonian intelligence.
“Yesterday, the Russian government said it was withdrawing troops from the border with Ukraine,” a senior US administration official told reporters late on Wednesday. “But we now know it was false.”
Rather, the opposite is the case. “In the last several days, Russia has increased its troop presence along the Ukrainian border by as many as 7,000 troops, with some arriving as recently as today,” he stated.
Thus, Moscow is saying one thing, but doing another, as Kurdistan 24 noted.
The Russians have said that “they are prepared to engage in diplomacy,” the senior administration official explained. “But every indication we have now is they mean only to publicly offer to talk and make claims about deescalation—while privately mobilizing for war.”
“We continue to receive indications that they could launch a false pretext at any moment to justify an invasion of Ukraine,” he continued, explaining that there has been an increasing number of such false charges.
They include “reports of an unmarked grave of civilians killed by the Ukrainian armed forces; statements that the US and Ukraine are developing biological or chemical weapons; and that the West is funneling in guerrillas to kill locals,” he stated.
On Wednesday, briefing reporters, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price made a similar point, noting Russian “statements that the United States or Ukraine are developing biological or chemical weapons—the latter for use in the Russian-controlled territories.”
In December, as Price noted, “Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu accused NATO and the United States of planning to ‘commit provocations’ by delivering tanks of ‘unidentified chemical components’ to the Donbas region for Ukraine’s use.”
Regarding biological weapons (BW), the Soviet Union had a large BW program, and the Russian charge against the US and Ukraine relates to that old Soviet program—which maintained facilities in Ukraine.
“The labs at issue are part of a network of facilities with links to the Biological Threat Reduction Program,” part of a US effort going back to the 1990s, which aims “to reduce the threat of the former Soviet Union’s weapons of mass destruction programs,” the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists explained.
The US oversees those sites to ensure they are safely maintained, including taking custody over unused supplies, and the labs now have a different focus: disease surveillance and public health, the Bulletin said.
Others Say the Same: NATO, Britain, Estonia, Ukraine
NATO Defense Ministers began a two-day meeting in Brussels on Wednesday, and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg spoke in similar terms as the conference started.
“We have not seen any withdrawal of Russian forces,” Stoltenberg told reporters. The Russians “have increased the number of troops and more troops are on their way.”
Estonia borders Russia, and it is particularly concerned about Moscow’s aggressive stance against Ukraine. The Estonian Foreign Intelligence Service director-general said that some ten more Russian battle groups are moving toward Ukraine, Reuters reported, while Estonia estimates there are already 170,000 Russian troops mobilized around Ukraine.
Britain’s defense intelligence chief described more armored vehicles, helicopters, and a field hospital, according to Reuters.