By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
BUDAPEST (Worthy News) – Thousands of U.S. forces in Eastern Europe are on high alert amid an anticipated invasion by Russian forces into Ukraine, a well-informed U.S. security official told Worthy News.
The high-ranking diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive issues. The official said “thousands of troops” are securing the eastern flank of the NATO military alliance.
They include Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, and the Baltics (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania), where at least tens of thousands of U.S. troops are stationed, Worthy News learned.
These countries, occupied by Russian forces for decades till communism collapsed over 30 years ago, fear a spill-over of a possible military confrontation between Russia and Ukraine.
The U.S. official said the American military is aware that Russian special forces, including the Wagner Group, are already in eastern Ukraine “preparing a pretext for an invasion.”
He said a Russian invasion was increasingly likely to occur as early as next month near the end of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, despite the threat of more Western sanctions.
Another, less likely scenario would be closer to the Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing starting early March, he added.
Separately the White House earlier warned that Russia could attack Ukraine “at any point.”
The comments came while Ukraine said Wednesday that Russia “almost completed” its build-up of forces for an invasion while thousands of U.S. troops in Eastern Europe remained on high alert.
Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s latest intelligence assessment said Russia now deployed more than 127,000 troops in the region.
The announcement came as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov were to meet Friday in Geneva. Their talks come after another week of diplomacy as the United States aims to fend off a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Ahead of the talks, Blinken was to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. He said he condemned Russian allegations that Ukraine was “the aggressor,” saying it was Russia “that invaded Ukraine eight years ago.” Blinken referred to the annexation by Russia of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014 and its support for separatists in the country’s east in a conflict that killed some 14,000 people
After the U.S. was involved in military support, Britain began supplying Ukraine with new light anti-tank weapons in response to “the increasingly threatening behavior from Russia,” confirmed British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace.
Ukraine’s Ambassador to Britain, Vadym Prystaiko, said he “was happy with it” but expressed concern about Ukraine being outnumbered at sea or in the air.
He expressed concern that “Ukraine is being surrounded” by Russian forces cooperating with Belarus.
He noted that the Kremlin continues to increase its troop deployment by moving forces into Belarus, which borders Ukraine to the north and is considered the most likely route for any invasion.
Western diplomats are concerned, however, that political tensions surrounding former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko could distract leaders’ attention from the crisis.
Poroshenko returned to Ukraine this week to face court on treason charges that he believes are politically motivated. At the Kyiv airport, where he arrived on a flight from Warsaw, Poland, on Monday morning, Poroshenko was greeted by several thousand cheering supporters.
Some carried banners reading “We need democracy” and “Stop repressions.”
Poroshenko, 56, is being investigated for alleged treason linked to the financing of Russian-backed separatist fighters through illegal coal sales in 2014-15.
He could face 15 years in prison if convicted.
Poroshenko, owner of the Roshen confectionery empire and one of Ukraine’s wealthiest businessmen, has denied the charges.
His party says current President Zelenskiy is involved in a reckless attempt to silence political opposition.
Poroshenko claims his successor, President Zelenskiy, wants to discredit him politically to distract from Ukraine’s widespread problems, including economic woes and rising deaths from COVID-19.
The latest charges are in a string of accusations against Poroshenko since Zelenskiy defeated him in 2019.
The allegations have generated concerns of undemocratic score-settling in Ukraine and also alarmed Ukraine’s allies at a time when Europe fears a new war.
A senior European diplomat said, “Europe is now closer to war than it has been since the break up of former Yugoslavia.” Russia claims it has “no intention” to invade Ukraine, but it demands guarantees that the country will not join the U.S.-led NATO military alliance. NATO says it’s up to Ukraine to decide whether to become a member.
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