Ukraine's leaders sought to reassure the nation that a feared invasion from neighboring Russia was not imminent, even as they acknowledged the threat is real and prepared to accept a shipment of American military equipment Tuesday to shore up their defenses.
Russia has denied it is planning an assault, but it has massed an estimated 100,000 troops near Ukraine in recent weeks, leading the United States and its NATO allies to rush to prepare for a possible war.
Several rounds of high-stakes diplomacy have failed to yield any breakthroughs, and this week tensions escalated further. NATO said it was bolstering its deterrence in the Baltic Sea region, and the U.S. ordered 8,500 troops on higher alert to potentially deploy to Europe as part of an alliance "response force" if necessary.
Former commanding general of the U.S. Army Europe, Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, says the crisis not only poses a threat to security, but also European stability moving forward.
"This is about respect for international law and the sovereignty of European countries," Hodges said. "Russia has zero respect for any of that."
He pointed out that since it was created, NATO has never threatened to invade the Soviet Union or Russia when it was at its weakest.
In Ukraine, authorities have sought to project calm — and many ordinary people have expressed skepticism that there will be an invasion soon.
Speaking in the parliament on Tuesday, Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said that "as of today, there are no grounds to believe" that Russia is preparing to invade imminently, noting that its troops have not formed what he called a battle group that could force its way through the border.
Reznikov's remarks come on the heels of multiple reassurances from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other officials. On Monday, Zelenskyy told the nation that the situation was "under control."
Russia has said Western accusations that it is planning an attack are merely a cover for NATO's own planned provocations. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Tuesday once again accused the U.S. of "fomenting tensions" around Ukraine, a former Soviet state that Russia has been locked in a bitter tug-of-war with for almost eight years.
Additional reporting by The Associated Press.