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US accuses Russia of recruiting Ukrainian officials to take over Ukrainian government as it unveils new sanctions

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US accuses Russia of recruiting Ukrainian officials to take over Ukrainian government as it unveils new sanctions

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“Russia has ordered its intelligence services to recruit current and former Ukrainian government officials to prepare to seize Ukrainian power and control Ukraine’s critical infrastructure with a Russian occupation force,” the official said. Treasury Department in a statement, as it rolled out sanctions. against four current and former Ukrainian officials she said were involved in Kremlin-directed influence activities to destabilize Ukraine.

The Treasury said the four people – two of whom are currently members of Ukraine’s parliament – were acting under the direction of a US-sanctioned Russian intelligence service and playing “various roles” in the “global influence campaign of Russia to destabilize sovereign countries”. in support of the Kremlin’s political goals.”

Russia recruits Ukrainian officials into high-level positions to gain access to sensitive information, threaten Ukraine’s sovereignty, and then leverage those officials to stir up trouble before a possible Russian invasion, according to the Treasury.

The department said Thursday’s action is “separate and distinct” from the “wide range of high-impact measures” the United States is ready for if Russia invades Ukraine.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that the sanctions are “consistent with other actions we have taken to target Russian disinformation campaigns.”

“The United States will continue to take action, including through actions like this, and in partnership with the Ukrainian government, to identify, expose, and undermine Russian destabilization efforts in Ukraine,” he said. he adds.

The Biden administration has warned that Russia could invade Ukraine at any time, but is also continuing diplomatic efforts to convince Moscow to de-escalate the situation, with Blinken due to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday to see if there is. a possibility of common ground.

US approves transfer of US arms from Baltic states to Ukraine

As concerns grow over a possible Russian invasion, the State Department told Congress it had approved export licenses for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which will allow the countries to transfer weapons of American origin to Ukraine, according to an administration official, a state representative. A department official and a congressional aide familiar with the case.
The approvals – which have come in recent days – are a signal that the United States is seeking to inflict a higher cost on Russian President Vladimir Putin if he goes ahead with the invasion. President Joe Biden said Wednesday he expected Putin to “move in” to Ukraine, and Blinken said this week the Kremlin planned to send more troops to Ukraine’s border.

The weapons include highly sought-after American anti-aircraft weapon systems from Latvia and Lithuania that would help Ukraine fend off Russian aircraft that some officials and experts say would pave the way for the early stages of a Russian invasion. Estonia has received permission to transfer Javelin anti-tank guided missile systems, which the United States has supplied to Ukraine in the past.

It’s unclear when the weapons will arrive in Ukraine, the senior administration official said, the timing – as well as the price for Ukraine – would depend on which countries received approval.

The Biden administration is also working to transfer five Russian-made helicopters to Ukrainian control, the same official said. A notification was sent to Congress for the helicopters, the Mi-17s, which are already in Ukraine for maintenance after being withdrawn from Afghanistan during the withdrawal there.

The State Department cited close coordination with European countries and Ukraine when asked about the transfer of export licenses.

“European allies have what they need to move forward with additional security assistance to Ukraine in the days and weeks ahead,” a State Department spokesperson said. “We are in close contact with our Ukrainian partners and our NATO allies on this matter, and are using all available security cooperation tools at our disposal, including expediting authorized transfers of equipment from U.S. origin from other allies and partners through our third-party transfer process and excess Defense Items from DoD inventories, among other mechanisms.”

Earlier this week, Blinken visited Ukraine where Ukrainian officials thanked him for US security assistance. But the Ukrainians have also regularly sought additional military support.

In late December, the Biden administration quietly approved $200 million in additional security assistance to Ukraine, which authorized the shipment of defensive equipment including small arms and ammunition, four people confirmed to CNN. close to the case at the time.
But after multiple diplomatic meetings between US, NATO, European and Russian officials ended last week without any significant breakthrough, the Biden administration has begun to weigh in more military support for the country. Ukraine amid more warning signs that Russia was preparing for an invasion. Biden has ruled out sending US combat troops to Ukraine to defend the country from a Russian invasion.
Russia has amassed about 100,000 troops on the border it shares with Ukraine, which Blinken said on Wednesday Russia could double in “relatively short time.” Russia also plans to conduct joint military exercises with Kremlin ally Belarus, raising fresh concerns from Ukraine over the emergence of a potential new frontline along its northern border.

Biden on Wednesday acknowledged disunity within NATO over how to respond to a “minor incursion” by Russia, an admission that stunned and shocked Ukrainian officials in Kyiv.

On Thursday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told the Wall Street Journal that Biden’s comments could serve as an invitation for Moscow to attack.

“Speaking of minor and full incursions or full invasion, you can’t be half aggressive. You’re either aggressive or you’re not aggressive,” Kuleba told the newspaper. “We must not give Putin any chance to play with quasi-aggression operations or small incursions. This aggression was there since 2014. It is a fact.”

In an apparent response to Biden’s remarks, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky wrote on Thursday about Twitter, “We want to remind the great powers that there are no minor incursions and small nations. Just as there are no minor casualties and little grief over the loss of loved ones.”

Asked about Biden’s remarks singling out the consequences of a “minor incursion” against Ukraine by Russia, Blinken said Thursday, “if Russian military forces cross the Ukrainian border and commit further acts of aggression against the Ukraine, this will be met with a quick response.” , a stern and united response from the United States and our allies and partners.”

Blinken, who traveled to Europe this week for meetings on the Russia-Ukraine crisis, also dismissed suggestions that the United States and its allies supplying defensive military hardware to Ukraine are escalating tensions with Russia.

“The idea that the supply by the United States, by European countries, by NATO of defensive military equipment to Ukraine is in some way a provocation or a cause of Russia’s actions is upsetting the world”, he told reporters at a press conference in Berlin.

He added that the United States was trying to ensure that “Ukraine has the wherewithal to defend itself, and that might deter further aggression from Russia.”

CNN’s Michael Conte contributed to this report.



US accuses Russia of recruiting Ukrainian officials to take over Ukrainian government as it unveils new sanctions

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