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White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday said the U.S. has not observed withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine’s borders despite Kremlin declarations that it was moving troops away.
Watch Psaki’s remarks in the player above.
“There is what Russia says and there is what Russia does,” Psaki told reporters. “And we are watching very closely what steps they are taking, but they remain amassed in a threatening way at the border.”
While a feared Russian invasion of Ukraine on Wednesday did not materialize, the United States and its allies maintain that the threat remains strong, with Europe’s security and economic stability in the balance.
Russia has massed about 150,000 troops east, north and south of Ukraine, according to Western estimates. Moscow denies it has any plans to invade, and this week announced a pullback of some forces and weapons. While details are scarce and the withdrawal is only partial, the Russian statements have lowered the political temperature following weeks of escalating tensions.
Ukrainians are once again caught in the middle of a geopolitical standoff.
On Tuesday, a series of cyberattacks knocked out the websites of the Ukrainian army, the defense ministry and major banks, and Serhii Demediuk, the No. 2 official at Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, blamed Russia.
Psai also said the U.S. still has not made attribution on Tuesday’s cyberattacks in Ukraine.
Psaki declined to comment on whether the U.S. might respond with its own cyberattack if it’s determined who was behind the attack. “I’m not going to outline or detail what options the President would have at his disposal,” Psaki said. She added Biden “can take any step seen and unseen.”
Western powers are not lowering their guard, and are holding a series of meetings in Europe this week dominated by the Ukraine crisis: the NATO defense ministers gathering, a summit of EU leaders starting Thursday, and the Munich Security Conference starting Friday, including appearances by Blinken and U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris.
In Moscow, Russian lawmakers sent an appeal to Putin urging him to recognize rebel-held areas in eastern Ukraine as independent states – where Russia has supported rebels in a conflict that has killed over 14,000 in nearly eight years. Putin signaled that he wasn’t inclined to back the motion, which would effectively shatter a 2015 peace deal that was a diplomatic coup for Moscow.
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