The United States says Russia is planning a military attack on Ukraine

Washington (AFP) – US intelligence has determined that Russia is planning a possible military attack against Ukraine that could begin as early as 2022 and would involve about 175,000 troops, according to a US official.

The new discovery estimates that half of the Russian personnel are already deployed at various points near the Ukrainian border, according to President Joe Biden’s administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the matter.

The revelation came as Russia insisted on its demands from Biden to ensure that Ukraine is not allowed to join NATO.

The official added that the plans provide for the transfer of 100 tactical battalions, along with armor, artillery and equipment.

The official added that intelligence officials also discovered an increase in the use of proxies and media by Russia to discredit Ukraine and NATO ahead of a possible invasion.

The intelligence findings were first reported by the Washington Post.

Hours before Friday, Biden warned that it would be “very, very difficult” for Russian President Vladimir Putin to launch a military operation in Ukraine, as the US government prepares for a series of initiatives to prevent Russian aggression.

Biden issued the warning amid growing concerns about a build-up of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine and growing hostile rhetoric from the Kremlin.

“What I’m doing is preparing for what I think is the broadest and most meaningful set of initiatives to make it very difficult for Mr. Putin to do what people are afraid to do,” Biden told reporters.

The Kremlin reported Friday that Putin will ask for binding guarantees preventing Ukraine from joining NATO during a phone call he will have with Biden, while Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov has warned that Russia may invade his country next month.

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Reznikov told lawmakers on Friday that the number of Russian personnel near Ukraine and in Crimea was estimated at 94,300, warning of the possibility of a “significant escalation” in January.

There are signs that the White House and the Kremlin are close to arranging a conversation next week between Biden and Putin. Putin’s foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov told reporters on Friday that arrangements have been made for a conversation between the two in the coming days, adding that the date will be announced once the details are finalized by Washington and Moscow. The Russians say a date has already been agreed upon, but they declined to say when.

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Isachenkov reported from Moscow. Associated Press reporter Eileen Knickmeyer in Washington contributed to this report.

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