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Ukraine tensions: Russia looking for excuse to invade, US says

Ukraine tensions: Russia looking for excuse to invade, US says

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Russia is preparing to fabricate a reason to invade Ukraine, the US says, warning that an attack could happen in the coming days.

On Thursday President Joe Biden said military action could begin imminently, but stressed that a diplomatic solution was still possible.

His top foreign policy official later listed several ways Moscow could stage justification for an attack.

Russia said the claims were “baseless” and accused the US of stoking tensions.

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It has repeatedly denied any plan to invade its western neighbour. Moscow insists it is moving troops away from the Ukrainian border, but that claim has been fiercely contested by Western powers.

“We have reason to believe they are engaged in a false flag operation to have an excuse to go in,” Mr Biden told reporters outside the White House.

A false flag is a fabricated attack a country stages against its own interests in order to justify a retaliation. The US has for weeks been saying that such a misdirection is part of Russia’s plans.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken later told the United Nations Security Council that Russia was readying such a move.

In the aftermath of such an incident, Mr Blinken said Russia’s government would likely “theatrically convene” an emergency meeting about protecting ethnic Russians in Ukraine – and Russian missiles and bombs would begin striking Ukrainian targets, alongside cyber-attacks.

The US has not provided evidence for the allegation, and Mr Blinken acknowledged that some people may question the claims. “But let me be clear. I am here today not to start a war but to prevent one,” he said.

Antony Blinken at the United Nations Security CouncilIMAGE SOURCE,REUTERS

The spike in tensions on Thursday came after an exchange of fire between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed rebels in the country’s east.

Such breaks in the years-long ceasefire are not uncommon. But each side blamed the other for Thursday’s violence.

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Ukrainian officials accused Russia-backed separatists of striking a nursery in the town of Stanytsia Luhanska, smashing through a wall into a children’s music room. Three adults – but no children – were injured.

There are also competing claims about the build-up of troops along Ukraine’s border.

Russia has said that, following the completion of military exercises, some of its troops are now returning to their bases. It has published video purporting to show tanks boarding trains as evidence.

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But US and other Western officials said thousands more troops are arriving and insist there is no evidence of any significant withdrawal. They say that claim is backed up not only by intelligence, but by widely available satellite photographs.

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