American citizens considering travelling to Ukraine have been advised by the US government to reconsider their trip, persistently warning that Russia could be planning an offensive against the neighbouring country.
On Monday, December 20, the US State Department updated its recommendations for the country, warning that “citizens should be aware of reports that Russia is planning for significant military action against Ukraine,” which “would severely impact the US Embassy’s ability to provide consular services,” including assisting people in departing from the region in an emergency.
The advisory came after Kiev’s intelligence services and Western officials sounded the alarm in recent weeks, insisting that Moscow could soon launch an all-out offensive against its neighbour assuming the Russian Christmas time to be a starting point of the alleged “attack,” RT reports.
However, the Kremlin has repeatedly rejected the accusations, instead of arguing that the prospect of Ukraine becoming a member of NATO destabilizes the situation.
The President of the country, Vladimir Putin, on Tuesday, December 21, blamed the West for escalating tensions in Europe, saying it had incorrectly assessed the outcome of the Cold War. Speaking to senior military officials, Putin said Russia would respond “adequately” to any Western aggression and would develop its army further.
“Why did they expand NATO and renounce the missile defence treaties? They are to blame for what is happening now, for the tensions building up in Europe,” Putin stressed.
Putin said he hoped for constructive talks with Washington and Brussels on Russia’s demands for security guarantees as there were signs the West was ready to work on the issue. However, after what it regarded as its victory in the Cold War, Washington’s judgement has been clouded by euphoria, he said, leading it to poor policy choices, Reuters reports.
“In case of clearly aggressive policy continued by Western colleagues, we will take adequate military-technical measures and respond toughly to unfriendly steps,” the Russian president warned.
As Putin stressed, Russia “has the full right” to measures intended to ensure its security and sovereignty, TASS reports.
As the Russian President emphasized, Moscow does not demand any special exclusive terms for itself.
“Russia stands for equal and indivisible security in the entire Eurasian space,” Putin said.
Moreover, according to the Russian Defence Minister, Sergei Shoigu, the international situation is deteriorating, as he got the information that US private military firms are planning provocations in Eastern Ukraine that will involve chemical components.
“Tanks with unidentified chemical components have been delivered to the cities of Avdeevka and Krasny Liman to commit provocations,” Shoigu said at a Russian Defence Ministry gathering on Tuesday, December 21.
The minister pointed out that advisers from American private military companies (PMC) have been dispatched to Donbass setting up firing positions and defences and training Ukrainian special forces.
“The presence of more than 120 employees of American PMCs was reliably estimated in the settlements of Avdeevka and Pryazovskoe in Donetsk Region. They are setting up firing positions in residential buildings and socially significant facilities, training Ukrainian special ops task forces and radical military groups for active hostilities,” Shoigu said.
He also said that NATO is practising options for using coalition groups against Russia, referring to Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine, who take part in the alliance’s military drills.
The statements come as the Head of the Russian delegation at the Vienna talks, Konstantin Gavrilov, stressed that Russia won’t allow the deployment of NATO infrastructure in Ukraine and Georgia.
Predictably, the US Defence Department spokesperson, John Kirby, called “false” the mentioned above statements by Shoigu.
“Those statements by the Minister Shoigu are completely false,” Kirby said during a briefing on Tuesday, December 21.
The spokesperson also said US Defence Secretary, Lloyd Austin, has not talked to Shoigu and has no plans to do so yet.
Anyway, any further movement of NATO toward Russian borders would be a “red line” in its dialogue with Moscow, as stated by the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
“Our position on NATO expansion is well known – it will be a red line if the alliance continues to move closer to the borders of the Russian Federation,” Lavrov stated.
The diplomat added that the draft agreements on ensuring security reflect Moscow’s interest in avoiding negative developments and outcomes suggested by some strategists in the alliance.