As the looming threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine rages on, the Russian military claimed Monday that five “saboteurs” were assassinated after crossing into Russia from Ukraine.
The report almost exactly mirrors what the Biden administration warned could be “false flags” or trigger points that Russia will use as a pretext to launch an invasion.
“Five people who violated the Russian border from a group of saboteurs were killed as a result of clashes,” the Russian military said in a statement, according to Reuters. There were no Russians killed as a result of the alleged border violation. Russia also claimed that early morning shelling by Ukraine destroyed a border outpost used by the FSB (Federal Security Service). 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.
Putin also called a special meeting of his security council on Monday, following which he stated that he is “considering a request to recognize separatist-held regions of Ukraine.” “The purpose of today’s meeting is to listen to colleagues and to determine our next steps in this direction, including the appeal from the leaders of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic to Russia seeking recognition of their sovereignty and the resolution of the state Duma on the same subject,” he said in a statement televised on Russian state media.
Despite a flurry of last-minute diplomatic efforts, including talk of a meeting between Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin, all hell appears to be breaking loose in Ukraine.
On Monday, Biden’s national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, warned that Russia’s impending attack on Ukraine will be “extremely violent” and could begin at any time.
“We believe that any military operation of the size, scope, and magnitude that we believe the Russians are planning will be extremely violent,” he said on a show on President’s Day, amid a frenzy of morning TV coverage. “It will cost Ukrainians and Russians, civilians and military personnel alike, their lives.”
According to him, new intelligence gathered in recent days indicates “an even greater form of brutality because this will not simply be some conventional war between two armies.” He went on to say that Russia will target the Ukrainian people in order to “repress, crush, and harm them.”
He then appeared on Good Morning America, telling the audience that “all signs point to President Putin and the Russians moving forward with a plan to execute a major military invasion of Ukraine.” Over the weekend, Russian military hardware bearing an ominous white “Z” lettering was seen rolling toward strategic points along the Ukrainian border. “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 indicated he would attend if Russia did not invade Ukraine, but the Kremlin dismissed any such meeting as “premature.”
While Sullivan reiterated that any attack on Ukraine would be met with the “full force of American and Allied might,” unsubstantiated news reports of ceasefire violations along the border persist. A video posted on Twitter showed a fuel station on the front lines in Eastern Ukraine burning as civilians fled amid 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.”