As the lumbering threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine continues unabated, the Russian military claimed that five so-called “saboteurs” were assassinated Monday after crossing into Russia from Ukraine.
The report mirrors almost exactly what the Biden administration warned could be “false flags” or trigger points that Russia will respond to as a pretext to launch its invasion.
“As a result of clashes, five people who violated the Russian border from a group of saboteurs were killed,” the Russian military said in a statement, according to Reuters. No Russians died in the alleged border infraction. Russia also said Ukraine had destroyed a border outpost used by the FSB (Federal Security Service) in early morning shelling.
Russia has also claimed in recent days that Ukrainian forces are staging attacks on the pro-Russian separatist areas of Luhansk and Donetsk.
Ukraine has denied any such incursion or attacks took place. The Minister of Foreign affairs, Dmytro Kuleba, took to Twitter Monday to dismiss the claims with big red ‘X’s denying an attack on Donetsk or Luhansk, or that it sent saboteurs over the Russian border, or that it shelled Russian territory or border crossings.
Monday, Putin also called a special meeting of his security council, after which he said he is “considering a request to recognize separatist-held regions of Ukraine.” In a statement televised on Russian state media, he said, “The purpose of today’s meeting is to listen to colleagues and to determine our further steps in this direction, including the appeal from the leaders of the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic to Russia seeking recognition of their sovereignty and the resolution of the state Duma on the same subject,” he said, mirroring earlier comments that the West has interpreted as another potential pretext to invade Ukraine in order to protect the newly-recognized regions.
Despite a flurry of last-minute attempts at diplomacy—including talk of a summit between presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin—all hell seems soon to break loose in Ukraine.
Monday, Biden’s national security advisor Jake Sullivan warned that Russia’s imminent attack on Ukraine will be “extremely violent” and that it could begin literally at any moment.
“We believe that any military operation of this size, scope and magnitude of what we believe the Russians are planning will be extremely violent,” he told NBC Today show on a frenzied circuit of morning TV on President’s Day. “It will cost the lives of Ukrainians and Russians, civilians and military personnel alike.”
He told the network that new intelligence garnered in recent days suggest “an even greater form of brutality because this will not simply be some conventional war between two armies.” He went on to say Russia will target the Ukrainian people “to repress them, to crush them, to harm them.”
He then appeared on ABC Good Morning America, telling them that “all signs look like President Putin and the Russians are proceeding with a plan to execute a major military invasion of Ukraine.” That plan was bolstered over the weekend with Russian military hardware painted with an ominous white “Z” lettering rolling toward strategic points along the Ukrainian frontier. “We have seen just in the last 24 hours further moves of Russian units to the border with no other good explanation other than they’re getting in position to attack.”
Over the weekend, French President Emmanuel Macron invited Biden and Putin to a summit, which Biden signaled he would attend on the condition that Russian not invade Ukraine, but the Kremlin called reports of any such meeting “premature.”
As Sullivan reiterated that any attack on Ukraine would be met with the “full force of American and Allied might,” unsubstantiated news reports of ceasefire infractions along the border continue unabated. Video posted on Twitter showed a fuel station burning on the front line in Eastern Ukraine as civilians fled against a backdrop of gunfire.
The European Union, which will feel the impact of an eventual war first-hand, approved an emergency package with $1.36 billion to support Ukraine through loans, according to a statement by the European Union Council released Monday. “It intends to provide swift support in a situation of acute crisis and to strengthen Ukraine’s resilience.”