Russia also demanded that the United States remove all of its nuclear weapons from Europe, and that Ukraine, Belarus and Georgia, three neighboring countries that were once part of the Soviet empire, never join NATO.
It remains unclear whether Mr. Putin believes these are realistic strategic goals – Deputy Secretary of State Wendy R. Sherman, called them “undivided” this week – or whether his real focus is on bringing Ukraine to heel. The Russian president wants to expand his country’s sphere of influence to include more of the old Soviet bloc, especially former Soviet republics like Ukraine.
The United States has vowed to impose tough financial and technological sanctions if Russia invades, and has said it would consider arming a Ukrainian insurgency to make any Russian occupation costly and bloody. Defense Secretary Lloyd J. To the one that expelled the Soviet Union from Afghanistan.
After the Biden administration brought the new accusation against Russia, Representative Adam B. Schiff, the California Democrat and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said the news emphasized the need to “provide Ukraine with the defensive weapons needed to deter aggression, and, if it fails to deter, make a Russian invasion costly to the invaders.”
The Kremlin rejected the intelligence assessment. Dmitriy S. said: Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, told the state-run news agency TASS: “So far, all these statements are baseless and nothing has confirmed them.”
The intelligence discovery was previously reported by CNN.
A senior Biden administration official said there were concerns that saboteurs or agitators could stage an incident in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, creating a potential pretext for a coup. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced several months ago that he believed a coup attempt was underway, but it never materialized.
I understand the rising tensions around Ukraine
Ukraine’s military intelligence service announced earlier on Friday that it had intercepted information about a plot by Russian spies to start a sabotage operation from the disputed territories of Moldova in southern Ukraine, where Russia maintains a large contingent of troops. The plan, according to the intelligence service, was to attack Russian forces stationed at an arms depot near the border with Ukraine and blame the Ukrainian forces.