Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Tuesday urged Western allies in NATO to act fast to "deter" Russian aggression aimed at the country's east, claiming that a Russian military assault could come "in the blink of an eye".
"What we are seeing is very serious. Russia has deployed a large military force in regions close to Ukraine's state border," he told reporters after weeks of widespread Western media assertions that at least 90,000 Russian troops are mustering near the border. "If Russia decides to undertake a military operation, things will happen in literally the blink of an eye," the foreign minister added.
Kuleba's numbers were even higher than common Western press estimates: "Moscow has massed 115,000 troops around Ukraine, on the Crimean peninsula," he was cited as saying. He also alleged tanks, military vehicles, and electronic warfare systems were also being positioned.
But the consistent response from the Kremlin has been to point out it's free to move its forces anywhere it wants within Russia's own sovereign borders. Ironically enough no officials in the US or anywhere else have actually disputed the reality that there's not been any attempt to breach Ukraine's borders.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby seemed to acknowledged this in statements the same day. He said the Pentagon is monitoring Russian troop movements... within Russia. Kirby described Russian forces as—
..."a continuing concern" and pledged US support for Ukrainian forces, though he downplayed expectations of a direct US military intervention.
"We continue to see movement, we continue to see additions" to their forces near the Ukrainian border, said Kirby.
"We're watching it very closely," he told reporters, adding: "We don't envision any US military intervention in this conflict."
To be sure, if US intelligence actually believed Putin is preparing an "imminent" invasion (as an initial Bloomberg report and some US officials earlier this month claimed), Kirby would now be threatening US military intervention to prevent such an offensive.
But instead Kirby is obviously downplaying the "invasion" scenario, and is reduced to admitting the Pentagon is merely "watching" the "movement" of Russian troops within Russia's own territory. He with a serious tone told the press pool that Russian troops are growing...in Russia.
This is tantamount to if China or Russia called a press conference, only to inform reporters that American troop movements are being monitored within the United States and in the vicinity of US bases on US soil. Moscow days ago slammed what it's classified as an ongoing 'disinformation campaign' coming from Ukraine and Washington, meant to increase the Western pressure on Russia and provide leverage.
Last week Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova issued a searing response to what's perhaps in reality a 'non-crisis'. She said, "The hot heads in the Kiev regime, apparently with a feeling of complete impunity, are in favor of a military solution to this internal Ukrainian crisis."
The Kremlin is now turning the accusation right back, asserting it's Ukraine that's pushing for fresh confrontation in Donbass, while attempting to hype tensions to the point that Kiev's Western backers get drawn in.