Following reports circulated by Reuters, who, citing three unnamed US officials stated on 28 January that blood supplies for the Russian army are being drawn to the border with Ukraine, which is a key indicator for military readiness, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense published an official statement that such reports may be part of Russia’s information-psychological war against Ukraine:
“First of all, it should be noted that this information, with reference to anonymous officials, was not confirmed by any official source from the relevant agencies of the partner countries. Monitoring and analysis of the current situation around the Ukrainian borders does not record such activities. This is evidenced by the exchange of information between intelligence services and foreign partners.
Such information ‘interventions’ are an element of information and psychological warfare, the purpose of which is to provoke fear and panic in our society.
The Operational Information Center urges not to disseminate unverified information from anonymous sources and to use official data.”
In recent days, Ukrainian and US officials have differed in their assessments of the Russian military threat on Ukraine’s borders.
Western defense officials are convinced that Russia has “completed the latest preparations for the invasion of Ukraine” by sending medical units to the border, yet other NATO Allies, particularly Germany and France, are not so sure. Reuters’ report about alleged blood supplies being drawn to the border drove the panic up a notch, as this is a direct precursor for impending military operations.
Also, US President Joe Biden warned there is a “distinct possibility” that Russia may invade Ukraine in February in a telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on 27 January. Yet, Zelenskyy and Ukraine’s military top brass have downplayed the possible threat.
Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said that Russia had about 112,000 troops on the border with Ukraine, and about 130,000, if the navy and aviation is included. This is 20,000 more than in December 2021.
“As of now, there are no military phenomena or actions that are significantly different from what happened last spring before Easter. The only difference in the military plan that we are closely following is the situation in Belarus. What is radically different is the intensity of hybrid measures, primarily information, as well as the impact of these measures on the macroeconomic situation.”
According to Reznikov, such reports are a means of pressure, and “not only and not so much on Ukraine.”
During a meeting with foreign journalists on 28 January, President Zelensky downplayed the threat of an invasion and called on world leaders and the media not to panic about the war with Russia, because it harms Ukraine’s economy. He also gave veiled criticism of Western nations who were warning of new economic sanctions but only if Russia invades. He suggested that the sanctions were needed before any possible invasion.
Earlier, in his column, Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov wrote that after eight years of learning in battle, Ukraine is now ready to fight Russia. At the same time, he notes that “the Kremlin is trying to destabilize Ukraine with hybrid means, including sowing panic. We must not give it this opportunity.” Meanwhile, his deputy Hanna Maliar stated that any panic is premature, as “the group of troops concentrated around the border of Ukraine is not yet enough for a full-fledged offensive.”
They also state that the Russian Federation is using the concentration of troops near Ukrainian borders primarily to politically blackmail the West and put pressure on Ukraine. The other goal is to provoke an internal split in Ukrainian society, sow fear and panic, and destabilize the internal situation. That is why “you need to trust the armed forces and take the situation calmly,” the military leadership has told Ukrainians, asking the media not to manipulate the situation by scandalous headings and information from unnamed sources.
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