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Russia responds to US ‘lightning war’ claims

Russia has hit out at claims tens of thousands of Ukrainians could soon be caught up in fierce fighting as part of a Moscow-backed invasion, with one of the country’s top diplomats rejecting reports that preparations for a lightning war are almost complete.

The Washington Post reported this weekend that officials had briefed lawmakers and European partners on new assessments showing that Russia had gathered more forces near its border with Ukraine and could soon launch an attack that would reach Kiev in just two days, killing 50,000 and causing up to five million refugees to flee the chaos.

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Sources familiar with the briefings told the newspaper that Moscow had readied about 70% of the forces necessary for such an invasion, with one official putting the total number of Russian personnel on the border at 130,000. Analysts also reportedly deemed that the possibility for a diplomatic solution to the crisis was becoming less likely, with one European official saying, “Our worry would be that you don’t park battle groups … on the border of another country twice and do nothing.”

However, Dmitry Polyanskiy, Russia’s deputy ambassador to the UN, responded to the report on Twitter on Sunday, writing the “madness and scaremongering continues … what if we would say that [the] US could seize London in a week and cause 300K civilian deaths? All this based on our intelligence sources that we won’t disclose. Would it feel right for Americans and Britts [sic]? It’s as wrong for Russians and Ukrainians.”

Western leaders have been warning for months that Russia could be planning an invasion of Ukraine, an accusation that Moscow has consistently denied. President Vladimir Putin has called for guarantees that would limit the expansion of NATO, the US-led military bloc, into Ukraine, and negotiators from the two sides have exchanged proposals for security deals. Western leaders have said that a prohibition on NATO enlargement is off the table.

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