Ukraine calls for US help as it fears Russian invasion
Ukraine says it is planning for a possible Russian invasion next year and is calling on its western allies to bolster its defences.
President Volodymyr Zelensky claims Russia has approximately 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border. And Ukraine’s defence intelligence agency chief Brigadier General Kyrylo Budanov warned Russia could invade by January.
He asked for US assistance. “No countries, except Ukraine, have an open war with Russia,” the brigadier told the US defence newspaper Military Times. “That’s why we are sure the US should give us everything we didn’t get before.”
Since seizing Crimea in 2014, Russia has built the Kerch Bridge over the Kerch Strait linking mainland Russia to the peninsular. The controversial bridge gives Russia effective control of the Sea of Azov’s access to the Black Sea, blocking off Ukrainian ports like Berdyansk.
The UK’s defence secretary Ben Wallace visited Ukraine in mid-November and signed a deal to “develop the capabilities of the naval forces of Ukraine”. The agreement will reportedly focus on the Sea of Azov.
US President Joe Biden is reportedly considering deploying military advisers and more weapons to Ukraine. Stinger air defence systems, Mi-17 helicopters and Javelin anti-tank missiles are among the US military equipment being discussed, according to CNN’s sources.
The US is also reportedly considering further sanctions with its European allies if Russia invades Ukraine, although economic measures failed to force Russia from Crimea after 2014.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has repeatedly warned of growing Russian military activity near the Ukrainian border.
“We don’t know what President [Vladimir] Putin’s intentions are, but we do know what’s happened in the past,” he said at the weekend in Senegal. “We do know the playbook of trying to cite some illusory provocation from Ukraine or any other country and then using that as an excuse to do what Russia’s planning to do all along.”
Putin says he would consider an extension of Nato’s military infrastructure in Ukraine as a threat to Russian national security. He has condemned the arrival of US naval vessels off the Russian Black Sea coast and the flight of Nato aircraft within 20km of Russia’s borders.
Russia has accused the west of “hysteria” about the chances of an invasion.
Andrei Kartapolov, the head of the Russian parliamentary defence committee, said: “All US efforts to ‘help’ Ukraine are leading it to the abyss.” He warned Ukraine to remember the shambolic end to the US’s “reckless adventure” in Afghanistan.
The Kerch bridge can block the Sea of Azov’s access to the Black Sea for Ukrainian vessels. Picture credit: Wikimedia