French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian warned on Monday that “all elements” were ready for Russia to launch a “major offensive” against Ukraine after Moscow massed thousands of troops on its borders.
“Do all the elements exist for a major offensive by Russian forces in Ukraine? Yes, it is possible, it is possible quickly,” Le Drian told France 5 television, adding that there was nothing to suggest that Moscow had already made up its mind.
The EU, along with other Western allies, has vowed to impose massive sanctions on Moscow if it makes a further incursion into Ukraine.
The United Kingdom, for its part, announced that it will send troops to Lithuania in order to strengthen NATO in the face of the Russian threat.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby warned that Russia further strengthened its military presence on the border with Ukraine over the weekend.
Russian President Vladimir Putin “has extensive capabilities at his disposal,” a spokesman for the US Department of Defense said in an interview with CNN. “He continues to add forces along the border with Ukraine and Belarus, even over the weekend, it’s well over 100,000” troops, he noted.
“It’s not just a question of numbers,” he continued. “It’s the capabilities. It has combined arms capabilities at its disposal, from weaponry to infantry, special forces, cyber and anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense.”
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced on Monday that some of Moscow’s massive military exercises in Russia and Belarus were “ending”, but added that some of the drills, which began in December, were still ongoing.
Earlier, the head of Russian diplomacy, Sergey Lavrov, considered possible a diplomatic solution to the crisis around Ukraine, even proposing to “prolong and expand” the dialogue. Those statements were far less offensive than those emanating from Moscow in recent weeks.