US says more Russian troops mass near Ukraine

Washington: Russia is massing yet more troops near Ukraine and an invasion could come at any time, perhaps before the end of this month’s Winter Olympics, Washington said on Friday.

Moscow, for its part, stiffened its truculent response towards Western diplomacy, saying answers sent this week by the EU and NATO to its security demands showed disrespect.

Commercial satellite images published by a private U.S. company showed new Russian military deployments at several locations near Ukraine.

In his starkest warning yet to Americans in Ukraine to get out now, President Joe Biden said he would not send troops to rescue U.S. citizens in the event of a Russian assault.

Things could go crazy quickly, Biden told NBC News. Biden was due to hold a phone call on Friday to discuss the crisis with the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Poland and Romania, as well as heads of NATO and the EU.

Biden met his national security advisers in the White House Situation Room overnight, a source familiar with the meeting said. U.S. officials believed the crisis could be reaching a critical point, with rhetoric from Moscow hardening, six Russian warships reaching the Black Sea and more Russian military equipment arriving in Belarus, the source said.

We’re in a window when an invasion could begin at any time, and to be clear, that includes during the Olympics,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The Beijing Games end on Feb. 20.

Simply put, we continue to see very troubling signs of Russian escalation, including new forces arriving at the Ukrainian border, Blinken added.

Russia’s Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov and U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley held phone talks on Friday, Interfax news agency reported, citing a Russian defence ministry statement. They discussed international security, the agency added without giving further details.

With alarm spreading, Japan and the Netherlands also told their citizens on Friday to leave Ukraine immediately. The Dutch diplomatic mission would be pulled from Kyiv and moved far from the Russian frontier to Lviv in Ukraine’s west.

Russia has already massed more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine, and this week launched joint military exercises in neighbouring Belarus and naval drills in the Black Sea.

Moscow denies planning to invade Ukraine, but says it could take unspecified “military-technical” action unless a series of demands are met, including promises from NATO never to admit Ukraine and to withdraw forces from Eastern Europe.