A top Ukrainian official has appealed for calm as he reassured the nation that an invasion from neighboring Russia was not imminent—despite officials acknowledging there is a real threat as NATO allies have ramped up defenses in the Baltic Sea region this week.
Oleksii Reznikov, Ukraine’s Minister of Defense, said on Monday that at this time, “there are no grounds to believe” that Moscow is preparing an invasion very soon and there is no need for citizens “to have [their] bags packed.”
“Don’t worry, sleep well,” he said, adding that “there are risky scenarios. They’re possible and probable in the future,” though at this time “such a threat doesn’t exist.”
On Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also told the nation that the situation is “under control,” while Reznikov affirmed Russia had not formed what he called battle groups, “which would have indicated that tomorrow they could launch an offensive.”
Reznikov’s and Zelensky’s statement in a bid to project calm in order not to destabilize the situation and avoid panic comes as another multi-million dollar shipment of U.S. military equipment arrived in Ukraine on Tuesday.
“Our partners are increasing the amount of military assistance. And today we are meeting the third aircraft from the United States government as part of this assistance,” the defense minister said at a press briefing before the aircraft loaded with defensive aid totaling about $200 million landed at an airport in the capital of Ukraine.
Several rounds of high-level talks earlier this month failed to achieve any breakthroughs, with a probability tensions might increase after NATO on Jan. 24 announced it’s placing extra forces on standby and sending more warships and fighter jets to Eastern Europe.
Moscow has repeatedly denied intentions to invade Ukraine, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying the West is showing “hysteria” and is putting out information “laced with lies.”
Peskov on Tuesday again accused the U.S. of “fomenting tensions” around Ukraine, a former Soviet state that has been locked in a conflict with Russia for almost eight years.
The Biden administration has vowed that the United States would initiate a “swift” and “severe” response if Russia’s military enters Ukraine. The United States has been Kyiv’s most powerful supporter in trying to avert a new attack by the Kremlin.
Since 2014, the United States has committed over $2.7 billion in training and equipment to help the country preserve its territorial integrity, the State Department said in a statement.
Ukraine’s pledges for calm also come days after the State Department ordered family members of government employees at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv to leave Ukraine, and authorized the voluntary departure of nonessential civil servants. The United Kingdom on Jan. 24 also started to withdraw some of its embassy staff and dependents from Kyiv amid growing tensions on the Russia–Ukraine border.
During this month’s high-level talks in Europe, Russia requested several security guarantees from the West, demanding NATO to never admit Ukraine as a member and that the alliance would curtail other actions, such as stationing troops in former Soviet bloc countries. Some of these, like the membership pledge, are nonstarters for NATO, creating a seemingly intractable stalemate that many fear can only end in a war.
Western concern over Moscow planning an invasion of its neighbor started after tens of thousands of Russian troops massed near the Russia–Ukraine border. In 2014, Russia used its military forces to annex the Crimean Peninsula, a move that drew sanctions from then-President Barack Obama. The fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed rebels has killed over 14,000 people, and efforts to reach a peaceful settlement have stalled.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.