Blinken declares 'moment of peril' for millions in Ukraine, reveals how US believes Russia would invade

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In a terse U.N. Security Council meeting Thursday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that Russia’s continued hostility toward Ukraine is a “moment of peril” and threatens global stability.

“As we meet today the most immediate threat to peace and security is Russia’s looming aggression against Ukraine,” he told the council. “The stakes go far beyond Ukraine. This is a moment of peril for the lives and safety of millions of people.”

“This crisis directly affects every member of this council and every country in the world because the basic principles that sustain peace and security – principles that were enshrined in the wake of two world wars and the Cold War – are under threat,” Blinken added. “The principle that one country cannot change the borders of another by force. The principle that one country cannot dictate another’s choices or policies or with whom it will associate. The principal of national sovereignty.” 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool)

The Thursday meeting was organized by Russia on the seven-year anniversary of the council’s unanimous adoption of Resolution 2202, also known as the Minsk agreements, which forged a peace deal between Ukraine and Russia-backed separatist forces from Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.   

The agreements were never fully realized and the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk have been engaged in conflict with the Ukrainian army since 2014.

Ukraine and Russian-backed rebels accused each other of violating the Minsk agreements Thursday after a shelling incident in a town in the Luhansk region.

U.S. officials have not yet said who they believe is behind the attack but have warned this could be a “false flag” operation by Russia to justify a provoked response. 

Moscow prompted further international ire this week after the Russian parliament urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to consider severing the international agreements by recognizing the breakaway regions as “independent.”

Russia additionally claimed it was partially withdrawing its more than 150,000 troops that have amassed along Ukraine’s border in Russia, neighboring Belarus and occupied Crimea – but the U.S. and its NATO allies have repeatedly warned Moscow has made no such moves.

Tanks move during the Belarusian and Russian joint military drills at Brestsky firing range in Belarus on Feb. 4, 2022.
(Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

“Russia says its drawing down those forces,” Blinken said Thursday. “We do not see that happening on the ground. Our information indicates clearly that these forces, including ground troops, aircraft, ships, are preparing to launch an attack against Ukraine in the coming days.”

In an unusually stark meeting, Blinken proceeded to explain that though U.S. intelligence does not yet know exactly how Russia will choose to launch its attack there are a series of steps the U.S. is anticipating. 

“Here’s what the world can expect to see unfold, in fact it’s unfolding right now today as Russia takes steps down the path to war,” he began. “First Russia plans to manufacture a pretext for its attack – this could be a violent event that Russia will bring on Ukraine or an outrageous accusation that Russia will level against the Ukrainian government.”

Blinken said the Kremlin could describe any alleged attack on Russia or ethnic Russians in Ukraine as “ethnic cleansing” or “genocide” – a strategy Putin has already engaged in and what Blinken described as “a mockery” that U.N. security officials “do not take lightly.”

Members of Ukraine’s Territorial Defense Forces, volunteer military units of the armed forces, train in a city park in Kyiv, Ukraine.
(AP/Efrem Lukatsky)

The secretary described how Russian state-controlled media has already begun spreading falsified claims, including stories of mass graves, to “lay the groundwork” for justification of a provoked attack by Russia.

“Second, in response to this manufactured provocation the highest levels of the Russian government may theatrically convene emergency meetings to address the so-called crisis,” he continued. “Next the attack is planned to begin. Russian missiles and bombs will drop across Ukraine, communications will be jammed, cyber-attacks will shut down key institutions. After that, Russian tanks and soldiers will advance.”

Kyiv is believed to already be a major target in the Russian attack. 

“Here today we are laying it out in great detail with the hope that in sharing what we know with the world we can influence Russia to abandon the path of war and choose a different path while there is still time,” Blinken said. 

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