White House says Russia’s withdrawal claim is ‘false’

The White House has called the Kremlin’s claims that it is withdrawing forces from the Ukrainian border “false” and accused Russia of increasing its military presence in the region by some 7,000 troops in recent days. .

“Yesterday, the Russian government said it was withdrawing its troops from the Ukrainian border. . . Now we know that’s wrong,” a senior Biden administration official said Wednesday.

“In fact, we have confirmed that in the past few days, Russia has increased its military presence along the Ukrainian border by up to 7,000 troops, with some coming as recently as today.”

US officials declined to provide more details to substantiate the claims, but said the intelligence was “quite authoritative”. On Tuesday, President Joe Biden said Russia was focused about 150,000 troops on the border with Ukraine and neighboring Belarus.

“Just as Russia’s claims of troop withdrawal are untrue, so will any false pretext they fabricate to justify this war of choice. The official added.

The US comment is the latest in a war of words between Western allies and the Kremlin over the increasingly tense situation in Syria. Ukraine. Russian officials insist that they are withdrawing some troops as they pursue a diplomatic solution, but Western officials say those comments are at odds with signs of advance preparing for an attack.

Earlier on Wednesday, Jens Stoltenberg, Nato’s general secretary, said the alliance “has not seen any de-escalation”, adding: “We are prepared for the worst”. He was speaking at the start of a two-day summit of NATO defense ministers in Brussels.

Moscow denied Stoltenberg’s assessment, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov asserting that Russia was drawing down some forces and accusing Nato of a “flaw” that prevented it from “assessing the situation in a fair way” conscious”.

Vladimir Chizhov, Russia’s ambassador to the EU, told Die Welt newspaper that there would be no escalation “next week or next week or next month”.

The NATO defense ministers summit will be followed by a two-day Munich Security Conference in Germany, attended by several Western allies, as well as Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president.

Zelensky on Wednesday expressed skepticism about Russia’s claims, telling the BBC: “Honestly, we react to the reality that we have and we have not seen any retreat. We just heard about it.”

Kamala Harris, vice president of the United States, will lead the American delegation to the conference in Munich, along with Antony Blinken, the secretary of state, and other officials.

Senior Biden administration officials said Harris attended to send a “resonating signal that engagement with our allies and partners is an absolutely vital part of our approach and our overall diplomacy”.

The vice president is expected to meet Stoltenberg on Friday and the leaders of the Baltic states, before delivering a speech to the conference on Saturday. She will also speak with Zelensky and Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, US officials said.

Additional reporting by Andy Bounds in Brussels and Max Seddon in Moscow

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