Russian ambassador insists Kremlin has “no such plans” to invade Ukraine
Washington — Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov denied Sunday that the Kremlin is preparing for an invasion of neighboring Ukraine, despite a build-up of roughly 150,000 Russian forces and U.S. intelligence that Russian commanders have received orders to proceed.
“There is no invasion, and there [are] no such plans,” Antonov said in an interview with “Face the Nation.”
The ambassador’s claims that Russia does not intend to invade Ukraine come as Russian President Vladimir Putin has massed roughly 150,000 soldiers, warplanes and equipment on his neighbor’s three sides and extended military drills near Ukraine’s northern borders. The exercises brought a large contingent of Russian troops to Belarus and were supposed to end Sunday.
Mr. Biden told reporters Friday he’s “convinced” Putin has made the decision to invade Ukraine and said the U.S. believes Russian forces intend to attack in the “coming days.”
Further, the U.S. has intelligence that Russian commanders have received orders to proceed with an invasion of Ukraine, with commanders on the ground making specific plans for how they would maneuver in their sectors of the battlefield, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reported on “Face the Nation” Sunday. The intelligence indicates that “they’re doing everything that American commanders would do once they got the order to proceed,” Martin said.
The Biden administration, meanwhile, has continued to assert that diplomacy remains a possibility, as roughly 5,000 U.S. troops have been deployed to Eastern Europe to bolster NATO forces. The president has stressed no American forces would go into Ukraine if Russia invades, but has warned there would be steep consequences for Russia in the form of sanctions.
The U.S. and other allies, most recently Germany and Austria, have also urged their citizens to leave the country. The U.S. Embassy in Ukraine temporarily relocated its operations from Kyiv to Lviv due to the acceleration in the buildup of Russian forces.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called on Putin to meet with him to work to resolve the crisis, but also was critical of Western leaders gathered at a security conference in Munich, arguing they should not wait to slap sanctions on Russia until after there is an attack.
“We don’t need your sanctions after the bombardment will happen, and after our country will be fired at or after we will have no borders or after we will have no economy or parts of our country will be occupied. Why would we need those sanctions then?” he said.
Asked why a meeting between Putin and Zelensky hasn’t happened if Russia claims it is interested in diplomacy, Antonov demurred, but asked, “Why are you all looking just only on the one side? Why you prefer to ignore the second one? Why you are ignoring Russian concerns on security?”
Despite the build-up of forces and military equipment around Ukraine, Antonov said Russia does “not threaten anyone,” and Russia has a “legitimate right to have our troops where we want on Russian territory.”
“We are not threaten[ing] to anybody. We are not threaten[ing] to United States. We are not threaten[ing] to Ukraine. It’s very easy to solve this crisis,” he said. “If you persuade Kyiv to sit at the table of negotiations when Luhansk and Donbas people, so there will be no fighting, there will be peace, there no will be any casualties. It’s so easy.”
Moscow, Antonov said, is concerned with the weapons and security assistance the U.S. and allies have provided to Ukraine. He reiterated that Russia is opposed to an expansion of NATO, and wants the U.S. to withdraw troops and weaponry from its neighboring countries.
“We would like to put everything on the paper, we would like to see legally binding guarantees for Russian security,” he said. “We sent our package of proposals, what should we do? We don’t want to see next wave of expansion of NATO. We would like you not to use any eastern and central European countries, as well as Baltic states, to deploy their new weapons. We don’t want INF missiles deployed in Europe.”
Antonov reiterated “there is no invasion now.”
“As you know, there was a lot of fake news in the mass media and in many American channels that today we’re going to start invasion, and I would like to confirm that there is not any plan to start war,” he said. “We don’t want a war.”