Russia could invade Ukraine “any day,” launching a conflict that would come at an “enormous human cost”, a US official has claimed.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan offered another stark warning the day after Washington said Russia has assembled at least 70% of the military firepower it likely intends to have in place by mid-month to give President Vladimir Putin the option of launching a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
“If war breaks out, it will come at an enormous human cost to Ukraine, but we believe that based on our preparations and our response, it will come at a strategic cost to Russia as well,” Sullivan said.
Mr Sullivan did not directly address reports that the White House has briefed members of congress a full Russian invasion could lead to the quick capture of Kiev and potentially result in as many as 50,000 casualties as he made appearances on a trio of Sunday talk shows.
“We are in the window. Any day now, Russia could take military action against Ukraine, or it could be a couple of weeks from now, or Russia could choose to take the diplomatic path instead,” Sullivan told the “Fox News Sunday” program.
His comments came after two US officials warned on Saturday that Russia has in place about 70 per centit believes it would need for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
US official provided any evidence for their assessment, saying the information came from confidential intelligence reports.
On Sunday, hundreds of US airborne infantry troops landed in Poland.
The Biden administration is deploying 3,000 US soldiers to Germany, Poland and Romania, increasing its presence in the region and strengthening Nato’s eastern flank.
Moscow, which seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, has moved more than 100,000 troops to its neighbour’s border, but denies planning an invasion.
Vladimir Putin has said Russia’s opposition to the expansion of Nato in Ukraine is being ignored.
Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron has said he believes a deal to avoid war in Ukraine is within reach, ahead of talks he is set to hold with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Moscow this week.
He called for a “new balance” to protect European countries “while respecting Russia”, adding that Moscow had legitimate security concerns.
But Ukraine’s sovereignty was not up for discussion, he told theJournal du Dimanche newspaper.
The UK’s foreign secretary, Liz Truss accused, Russia of trying to “subvert and threaten Ukraine”.
Ms Truss, who is also expected to visit Moscow next week, shared an article on twitter detailing US claims that Russia could “seize Kyiv in days” and cause “up to 50,000 civilian deaths”.
She wrote: “Russia’s actions show their claims to have no plans to invade are false.”
But Russian officials dismissed the warnings as alarmist and highly unlikely.
“Madness and scaremongering continues,” Russia’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations Dmitry Polyanskiy said.
“What if we would say that US could seize London in a week and cause 300K civilian deaths? All this based on our intelligence sources that we won’t disclose.
“Would it feel right for Americans and Brits? It’s as wrong for Russians and Ukrainians.”
Meanwhile Ukraine’s foreign minister played down “apocalyptic predictions” of an imminent Russian invasion.
“Different capitals have different scenarios, but Ukraine is ready for any development,” Dmytro Kuleba wrote on twitter.
“Today, Ukraine has a strong army, unprecedented international support and the faith of Ukrainians in their country. It is the enemy who should fear us.”
The United States, with its allies, has threatened extensive economic sanctions against Russia. Washington has given Kiev weapons but said it would not send US soldiers to defend Ukraine, which is not a member of NATO.