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US accuses Russia of recruiting Ukrainian officials to take control of Ukraine’s government as it unveils new sanctions

“Russia has directed its intelligence services to recruit current and former Ukrainian government officials to prepare to take over the government of Ukraine and to control Ukraine’s critical infrastructure with an occupying Russian force,” the Treasury Department mentioned in an announcement, as it rolled out sanctions in opposition to 4 present and former Ukrainian officials it mentioned had been concerned in Kremlin-directed affect actions to destabilize Ukraine.

The Treasury mentioned the 4 people — two of whom are present members of Ukraine’s Parliament — had been performing beneath the path of a Russian intelligence service sanctioned by the US and performed “various roles” in Russia’s “global influence campaign to destabilize sovereign countries in support of the Kremlin’s political objectives.”

Russia recruits Ukrainian officials in high positions to achieve entry to delicate info, threaten Ukraine’s sovereignty after which leverage these officials to instigate unrest forward of a possible Russian invasion, in accordance to Treasury.

The division mentioned that the motion taken Thursday is “separate and distinct” from the “broad range of high impact measures” the US is ready if Russia invades Ukraine.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken mentioned in an announcement that the sanctions are “in line with other actions that we have taken to target Russian disinformation campaigns.”

“The United States will continue to take steps, including through actions like this one, and in partnership with the Ukrainian government, to identify, expose, and undercut Russia’s destabilization efforts in Ukraine,” he added.

The Biden administration has warned that Russia might invade Ukraine at any level however can also be pursuing diplomatic efforts to persuade Moscow to deescalate the scenario, with Blinken set to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday to see if there’s alternative for widespread floor.

US approves switch of American weapons from Baltic states to Ukraine

As the issues develop a couple of possible Russian invasion, the State Department informed Congress that it has authorised export licenses for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which is able to enable the international locations to switch US-origin weapons to Ukraine, in accordance to an administration official, a State Department official and a congressional aide conversant in the matter.
The approvals — which occurred in latest days — are a sign that the US is trying to inflict a larger price on Russian President Vladimir Putin if he goes ahead with the invasion. President Joe Biden mentioned Wednesday he expects Putin will “move in” to Ukraine and Blinken said this week that the Kremlin has plans for sending extra troops to the Ukrainian border.

The weapons embrace extremely wanted, American anti-aircraft weapons programs from Latvia and Lithuania that might assist Ukraine fend off Russian plane that some officials and specialists imagine would paved the way within the early levels of a Russian invasion. Estonia was given approval to switch anti-tank Javelin guided missile programs, which the US has supplied Ukraine with previously.

It’s unclear when the weapons will arrive in Ukraine, the senior administration official mentioned the timing — as properly as the value for Ukraine — could be up to the international locations who got the approval.

The Biden administration can also be engaged on transferring 5 Russian-made helicopters into Ukrainian control, the identical official mentioned. A notification has been despatched to Congress for the helicopters, Mi-17s, that are already in Ukraine for upkeep after being pulled out of Afghanistan in the course of the withdrawal there.

The State Department cited shut coordination with European international locations and Ukraine when requested concerning the export licenses switch.

“European allies have what they need to move forward on additional security assistance from Ukraine in the coming days and weeks,” mentioned a State Department spokesperson. “We are in close touch with our Ukrainian partners and our NATO Allies on this, as well as utilizing all available security cooperation tools available to us including expediting authorized transfers of US origin equipment from other allies and partners via our Third Party Transfer process and Excess Defense Articles from DoD inventories, among other mechanisms.”

Earlier this week, Blinken visited Ukraine the place Ukrainian officials thanked him for US safety help. But Ukrainians have additionally routinely sought further army assist.

In late December, the Biden administration quietly approved an extra $200 million in safety help to Ukraine, which licensed the cargo of defensive tools that features small arms and ammunition, 4 individuals conversant in the matter confirmed to CNN on the time.
But after a number of diplomatic conferences between the US, NATO, European officials and Russian officials ended final week with none vital breakthroughs, the Biden administration began weighing more military support for Ukraine amid extra warning indicators that Russia was prepping for an invasion. Biden has ruled out sending US fight troops to Ukraine to defend the nation from a Russian invasion.
Russia has amassed about 100,000 troops to the border it shares with Ukraine, which Blinken mentioned Wednesday Russia might double in “relatively short order.” Russia plans to additionally conduct joint army workout routines with Kremlin ally Belarus, prompting further concerns from Ukraine {that a} new potential entrance line has emerged alongside its northern border.

Biden on Wednesday acknowledged disunity inside NATO over how to reply to a “minor incursion” from Russia, an admission that shocked and shocked Ukrainian officials in Kyiv.

On Thursday, Ukraine’s international minister Dmytro Kuleba informed The Wall Street Journal that Biden’s feedback might act as an invitation to Moscow to assault.

“Speaking of minor and full incursions or full invasion, you cannot be half-aggressive. You’re either aggressive or you’re not aggressive,” Kuleba informed the newspaper. “We should not give Putin the slightest chance to play with quasi-aggression or small incursion operations. This aggression was there since 2014. This is the fact.”

In a seeming response to Biden’s remarks, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday wrote on Twitter, “We want to remind the great powers that there are no minor incursions and small nations. Just as there are no minor casualties and little grief from the loss of loved ones.”

Asked about Biden’s remarks distinguishing the results of a “minor incursion” in opposition to Ukraine by Russia, Blinken mentioned on Thursday, “if any Russian military forces move across the Ukrainian border and commit new acts of aggression against Ukraine, that will be met with a swift, severe, united response from the United States and our allies and partners.”

Blinken, who has been touring Europe this week for conferences on the Russia-Ukraine disaster, additionally dismissed solutions that the US and allies’ offering defensive army tools to Ukraine escalates tensions with Russia.

“The idea that the provision by the United states, by European countries, by NATO, of defensive military equipment to Ukraine is somehow provocative or cause for Russia’s actions has the world upside down,” he informed reporters throughout a press convention in Berlin.

He added that the US is making an attempt to make sure that “Ukraine has the means to defend itself, and that might perhaps deter further aggression by Russia.”

CNN’s Michael Conte contributed to this report.

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