By KATELYN CARALLE, U.S. POLITICAL REPORTER FOR DAILYMAIL.COM
January 24, 2022
Volodymyr Zelensky is confident that there is not an ‘imminent threat’ to Kyiv, according to a source close with the Ukraine president, who blasted President Joe Biden for recalling U.S. embassy personnel from the country amid threat of Russian invasion.
The source also took aim at Biden’s State Department informing American citizens in Ukraine to leave the country.
‘The fact that the US was the first one to announce this is extremely disappointing,’ the source told BuzzFeed News on Monday.
‘Quite frankly these Americans are safer in Kyiv than they are in Los Angeles … or any other crime-ridden city in the U.S.,’ the Zelensky source added in taking aim at the spiking crime rates in U.S. cities.
The source said Zelensky ‘does not think there’s any remotely imminent threat to Kyiv’.
After pulling embassy personnel and their families from Ukraine, Biden’s State Department warned American citizens in the country to leave on their own, claiming the U.S. government will not be able to evacuate citizens should Russia invade.
‘Given that the President has said military action by Russia could come at any time, the US government will not be in a position to evacuate US citizens,’ State Department officials said during a press call over the weekend.
‘So U.S. citizens currently present in Ukraine should plan accordingly,’ they added, suggesting people arrange commercial flights.
The source close to Zelensky told BuzzFeed that the Ukrainian president’s office views Biden’s moves as ‘utterly ridiculous’ and symbolic of ‘U.S. inconsistency.’
‘On the one hand, [Washington tells Ukraine] how we should democratize. ‘We stand with you. It’s your right to determine to join the West. We will stand with you against Russian aggression,’ the source said in mimicking past messages from the U.S. to Ukraine.
‘Then Russia turns up the temperature and they’re the first to leave,’ the source lamented.
Biden is finalizing his plans to deploy U.S. forces as Russia poises itself to invade Ukraine, a CNN report revealed, as the president prepares for a Monday afternoon meeting with European allies and partners to discuss the plan in Eastern Europe.
The president is also considering deploying up to 50,000 American troops.
Several U.S. officials told CNN on Monday that the administration is in the final stages of identifying which military units to send to Eastern Europe to deter Russia and is preparing orders should they decide to deploy troops.
Biden will speak with Transatlantic Allies and partners on Monday afternoon to discuss his plan regarding the Ukraine-Russia conflict, according to the White House’s updated version of the president’s daily schedule.
The secure video call with European leaders will be held in the Situation Room and will include European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel, President Emmanuel Macron of France, Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany, Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, President Andrzej Duda of Poland, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom.
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko blasted President Biden on Monday for pulling U.S. embassy personnel and relatives of staff out of Kyiv.
‘We have taken note of [the State Department]’s decision re departure of family members of [US Embassy in Kyiv] staff,’ Nikolenko wrote on Twitter in the early hours of Monday morning.
‘While we respect right (sic) of foreign nations to ensure safety & security of foreign nations to ensure safety & security of their diplomatic missions, we believe such a step to be a premature one & an instance of excessive caution.’
On Sunday, the United States ordered the families of its diplomats in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv to leave the country ‘due to the continued threat’ of a Russian invasion, the State Department said.
Nikolenko noted that the EU is not telling its staff to leave. Biden is still smarting from failing to act swiftly enough in evacuating US citizens from Afghanistan.
The Biden administration has already warned American citizens in Ukraine to leave on their own, claiming the U.S. government will not be able to evacuate citizens should Russia invade.
‘Given that the President has said military action by Russia could come at any time, the US government will not be in a position to evacuate US citizens,’ officials said during a State Department call over the weekend.
‘So US citizens, currently present in Ukraine should plan accordingly,’ they added, suggesting people arrange commercial flights.
Biden is considering deploying up to 50,000 US troops as well as aircraft and warships to eastern Europe to counter a Russian military build-up that has sparked fears Vladimir Putin is about to invade Ukraine.
The plan would see between 1,000 and 5,000 soldiers sent to NATO nations such as Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, which border Russian territory.
Troop numbers could then be increased up to 50,000 if the security situation deteriorates, backed up by fresh deployments of ships and aircraft.
Pentagon officials presented the plan to Biden during a summit at Camp David over the weekend, convened to discuss military options to deter an attack by Russia after the threat of sanctions largely fell on deaf ears.
The plan would not involve American troops deployed directly to Ukraine, with Biden thought to be loathe to enter another conflict following his disastrous withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan last year, The New York Times reports.
An NBC News report notes that other options presented to Biden ahead of an invasion were sending bomber flights over the region, ship visits into the Black Sea and moving troops and equipment from other parts of Europe into Poland, Romania and other countries that neighbor Ukraine.
Biden is due to make a call on military measures as soon as this week, the Times detailed, even as high-level talks between Washington and Moscow continue – with the U.S. due to submit a written response to Russian security demands.
The Times claims this presents a change in Biden’s strategy, claiming ‘the administration is now moving away from its do-not-provoke [Russia] strategy.’
But the White House is questioning whether the New York Times report presents any new information considering Biden said at last week’s press conference: ‘We’re going to actually increase troop presence in Poland, in Romania, etc., if in fact he moves.’
‘The president has publicly said that he’d deploy troops to Eastern Europe if the Russians invade so I don’t really get how the NYT story advances that?’ a senior White House official told Politico’s Monday morning Playbook edition.
The U.S. is also already operating surveillance flights to track the Russian build-up and movement of Kremlin troops as Biden considers keeping special forces in the Ukraine in the event of a full-scale invasion.
Since late December, the Air Force has been regularly flying RC-135 Rivet Joint electronic-eavesdropping planes over Ukraine in order to listen in on Russian ground commanders’ communications, the Times reported. The Air Force is also operating ground-surveillance flights withE-8 JSTARS to track Russian troop buildup at Ukraine’s border.
The spy plane mission is meant to find any indications that Russia is considering deploying nuclear weapons to the border with Ukraine, a potential of which Russian officials already warned.
Poland’s defense ministry notes there are currently around 4,000 U.S. troops stationed in Poland.
There are also currently more than 150 U.S. military advisers in Ukraine who have operated at a training ground near Lviv for years. It includes Special Operations forces, mostly Army Green Berets, and National Guard trainers from Florida’s 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
While the U.S. intends to move its military trainers out of Ukraine swiftly should a full-scale Russian invasion occur, it’s also possible some American forces could stay to advise Kyiv officials and provide frontline support, a U.S. official told the Times.