FILE – A convoy of Russian armored vehicles moves along a highway in Crimea, Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022. With tens of thousands of Russian troops positioned near Ukraine, the Kremlin has kept the U.S. and its allies guessing about its next moves in the worst Russia-West security crisis since the Cold War. (AP Photo, File)

LONDON (AP) — The British government on Saturday accused Russia of seeking to replace Ukraine’s government with a pro-Moscow administration, and said former Ukrainian lawmaker Yevheniy Murayev is being considered as a potential candidate.

Murayev is head of the small pro-Russian party Nashi, which currently has no seats in Ukraine’s parliament.

Britain’s Foreign Office named several other Ukrainian politicians it said had links with Russian intelligence services.

It’s unclear what means Britain believes Russia might use to install a friendly government in Kyiv.

The U.K. government made the claim based on an intelligence assessment, without providing evidence to back it up. It comes amid a war of words between Moscow and the West over Russia’s designs on Ukraine.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the information “shines a light on the extent of Russian activity designed to subvert Ukraine, and is an insight into Kremlin thinking.”

Truss urged Russia to “de-escalate, end its campaigns of aggression and disinformation, and pursue a path of diplomacy,” and reiterated Britain’s view that “any Russian military incursion into Ukraine would be a massive strategic mistake with severe costs.”

Britain has sent anti-tank weapons to Ukraine as part of efforts to bolster its defenses against a potential Russian attack.

Amid diplomatic efforts to defuse the crisis, U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace is expected to meet Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu for talks in Moscow. No timing has been given for the meeting, which would be the first U.K.-Russia bilateral defense talks since 2013.RUSSIA-UKRAINEBritain says Russia seeking to replace Ukraine governmentGerman navy chief resigns following Ukraine commentsWhere Ukraine’s sunflowers once sprouted, fears now growRussia toughens its posture amid Ukraine tensions

The U.S. has mounted an aggressive campaign in recent months to unify its European allies against a new Russian invasion of Ukraine. The White House called the U.K. government assessment “deeply concerning” and said it stands with the duly elected Ukrainian government.

“This kind of plotting is deeply concerning,” said National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne. “The Ukrainian people have the sovereign right to determine their own future, and we stand with our democratically-elected partners in Ukraine.”

The assessment came as President Joe Biden spent Saturday at the presidential retreat Camp David outside of Washington huddling with his senior national security team about the Ukraine situation. A White House official said the discussions included efforts to de-escalate the situation with diplomacy and deterrence measures being coordinated closely with allies and partners, including security assistance to Ukraine.

In another development, the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania plan to send U.S.-made anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine, a move that the United States fully endorsed Saturday amid Kyiv’s escalating tensions with Russia.

The defense ministers of the three Baltic states said in a joint statement that they “stand united in our commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in face of continued Russian aggression.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a tweet that Washington saluted the NATO nations and former Soviet republics “for their longstanding support to Ukraine.”

“I expedited and authorized and we fully endorse transfers of defensive equipment @NATO Allies Estonia Latvia Lithuania are providing to Ukraine to strengthen its ability to defend itself against Russia’s unprovoked and irresponsible aggression,” Blinken said in another tweet.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov earlier this week described the West supplying arms to Ukraine as extremely dangerous and said the shipments “do nothing to reduce tensions.”

Moscow has massed tens of thousands of troops near the Russia-Ukraine border, leading to fears of an invasion. The West has rejected Moscow’s main demands — promises from NATO that Ukraine will never be added as a member, that no alliance weapons will be deployed near Russian borders, and that it will pull back its forces from Central and Eastern Europe.

A meeting Friday between Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov ended with no breakthrough. Amid the uncertain security situation, the U.S. State Department has been considering a range of options to ensure the safety and security of the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv and its employees by moving to reduce its diplomatic presence there.

The defense ministers of the Baltic states said in their statement that Estonia would provide Javelin anti-tank weapons while Latvia and Lithuania were sending Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and other related equipment to bolster Kyiv’s defensive military capabilities. It wasn’t immediately clear when the weapons and equipment would be sent to Ukraine.

“Today, Ukraine is at the forefront of separating Europe from the military conflict with Russia. Let´s face it, the war in Ukraine is ongoing and it is important to support Ukraine in every way we can so that they can resist the aggressor,” Estonian Defense Minister Kalle Laanet said.

Britain says Russia seeking to replace Ukraine government

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Members of Ukraine's Territorial Defense Forces, volunteer military units of the Armed Forces, train in a city park in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. Dozens of civilians have been joining Ukraine's army reserves in recent weeks amid fears about Russian invasion. (AP Photo)

Ukraine-021

FILE - A Russian army soldier takes part in drills at the Kadamovskiy firing range in the Rostov region in southern Russia, Friday, Dec. 10, 2021. With tens of thousands of Russian troops positioned near Ukraine, the Kremlin has kept the U.S. and its allies guessing about its next moves in the worst...

Ukraine-009

Members of Ukraine's Territorial Defense Forces, volunteer military units of the Armed Forces, train in a city park in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. Dozens of civilians have been joining Ukraine's army reserves in recent weeks amid fears about Russian invasion. (AP Photo)

Ukraine-014

Members of Ukraine's Territorial Defense Forces, volunteer military units of the Armed Forces, train in a city park in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. Dozens of civilians have been joining Ukraine's army reserves in recent weeks amid fears about Russian invasion. (AP Photo)

Ukraine-013

A member of Ukraine's Territorial Defense Forces, volunteer military units of the Armed Forces, trains in a city park in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. Dozens of civilians have been joining Ukraine's army reserves in recent weeks amid fears about Russian invasion. (AP Photo)

Ukraine-010

A member of Ukraine's Territorial Defense Forces, volunteer military units of the Armed Forces, trains in a city park in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. Dozens of civilians have been joining Ukraine's army reserves in recent weeks amid fears about Russian invasion. (AP Photo)

Ukraine-015

Members of Ukraine's Territorial Defense Forces, volunteer military units of the Armed Forces, train in a city park in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. Dozens of civilians have been joining Ukraine's army reserves in recent weeks amid fears about Russian invasion. (AP Photo)

Ukraine-019

Servicemen march leaving a memorial ceremony to honor the memory of civilians who died during shelling at a crowded bus stop in 2015, in Donetsk, controlled by Russia-backed separatists, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. (AP Photo)

Ukraine-005

A member of Ukraine's Territorial Defense Forces, volunteer military units of the Armed Forces, throws a hand grenade during training in a city park in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. Dozens of civilians have been joining Ukraine's army reserves in recent weeks amid fears about Russian invas...

Ukraine-018

Members of Ukraine's Territorial Defense Forces, volunteer military units of the Armed Forces, train in a city park in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. Dozens of civilians have been joining Ukraine's army reserves in recent weeks amid fears about Russian invasion. (AP Photo)

Ukraine-007

A member of Ukraine's Territorial Defense Forces, volunteer military units of the Armed Forces, trains in a city park in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. Dozens of civilians have been joining Ukraine's army reserves in recent weeks amid fears about Russian invasion. (AP Photo)

Ukraine-022

FILE - In this image taken from video and released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, Russian army's self-propelled howitzers fire during military drills near Orenburg in the Urals, Russia, Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021. With tens of thousands of Russian troops positioned near Ukraine, the Kremlin...

Ukraine-016

A Ukrainian serviceman patrols a street near frontline with with Russia-backed separatists in Verkhnotoretske village in Yasynuvata district, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. Russia on Thursday announced sweeping naval drills in several parts of the world this month, and cla...

Ukraine-023

FILE - Russian tanks T-72B3 take part in drills at the Kadamovskiy firing range in the Rostov region in southern Russia, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022. With tens of thousands of Russian troops positioned near Ukraine, the Kremlin has kept the U.S. and its allies guessing about its next moves in the worst...

Ukraine-006

Members of Ukraine's Territorial Defense Forces, volunteer military units of the Armed Forces, train in a city park in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. Dozens of civilians have been joining Ukraine's army reserves in recent weeks amid fears about Russian invasion. (AP Photo)

Ukraine-020

FILE - Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, greets Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov before their meeting, Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, in Geneva, Switzerland. With tens of thousands of Russian troops positioned near Ukraine, the Kremlin has kept the U.S. and its allies guessing about its next mo...

Ukraine-011

A member of Ukraine's Territorial Defense Forces, volunteer military units of the Armed Forces, trains in a city park in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. Dozens of civilians have been joining Ukraine's army reserves in recent weeks amid fears about Russian invasion. (AP Photo)

Ukraine-017

Members of Ukraine's Territorial Defense Forces, volunteer military units of the Armed Forces, train in a city park in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. Dozens of civilians have been joining Ukraine's army reserves in recent weeks amid fears about Russian invasion. (AP Photo)

Ukraine-004

Members of Ukraine's Territorial Defense Forces, volunteer military units of the Armed Forces, train in a city park in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. Dozens of civilians have been joining Ukraine's army reserves in recent weeks amid fears about Russian invasion. (AP Photo)

Ukraine-002

Members of Ukraine's Territorial Defense Forces, volunteer military units of the Armed Forces, train in a city park in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. Dozens of civilians have been joining Ukraine's army reserves in recent weeks amid fears about Russian invasion. (AP Photo)

Ukraine-003

Members of Ukraine's Territorial Defense Forces, volunteer military units of the Armed Forces, train in a city park in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. Dozens of civilians have been joining Ukraine's army reserves in recent weeks amid fears about Russian invasion. (AP Photo)

Ukraine-012

Members of Ukraine's Territorial Defense Forces, volunteer military units of the Armed Forces, train in a city park in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. Dozens of civilians have been joining Ukraine's army reserves in recent weeks amid fears about Russian invasion. (AP Photo)

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FILE - A convoy of Russian armored vehicles moves along a highway in Crimea, Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022. With tens of thousands of Russian troops positioned near Ukraine, the Kremlin has kept the U.S. and its allies guessing about its next moves in the worst Russia-West security crisis since the Cold Wa...

Ukraine-008 Ukraine-021 Ukraine-009 Ukraine-014 Ukraine-013 Ukraine-010 Ukraine-015 Ukraine-019 Ukraine-005 Ukraine-018 Ukraine-007 Ukraine-022 Ukraine-016 Ukraine-023 Ukraine-006 Ukraine-020 Ukraine-011 Ukraine-017 Ukraine-004 Ukraine-002 Ukraine-003 Ukraine-012 1000

Estonia also is seeking Germany’s approval to send Soviet-made howitzers, which once belonged to East Germany, to Ukraine. Estonia acquired the howitzers from non-NATO member Finland, which in turn had bought them from Germany’s military surplus supply in the 1990s.

The German government said Friday that it was considering Estonia’s request to pass the howitzers on to Ukraine but gave no timeline for a decision. Berlin said it planned to coordinate the issue with Finland, which has received a similar approval request from Estonia.

Berlin routinely demands a say when German-sold weapons are transferred to third countries. But some recent media reports suggested German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Cabinet could block Estonia’s transfer of weapons to Kyiv, highlighting divisions in the West’s response to the Ukraine crisis.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba alleged Saturday that Germany was not showing adequate support for Ukraine.

Kuleba said in a Twitter post that the weapons transfer issue and remarks by German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock expressing skepticism about cutting off Russia from the SWIFT global payments system “do not correspond to the level of our relations and the current security situation.”

Also Saturday, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry summoned the German ambassador to object to recently circulated video in which the head of the German navy said that Ukraine would not regain the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014, and that Russian President Vladimir Putin deserved “respect.”

The comments by vice admiral Kay-Achim Schoenbach sparked consternation and a swift rebuke back in Berlin. By late Saturday, the German navy chief had tendered his resignation, saying he wanted to prevent further damage resulting from his “ill-considered statements” in India.

The U.S. State Department is currently warning U.S. citizens not to visit Ukraine due to the coronavirus pandemic but is also advising them to reconsider travel there due to potential Russian aggression.

Speculation that an announcement about the U.S. diplomatic presence in Ukraine may be imminent has increased since the embassy in Kyiv announced it would hold a virtual town hall meeting about the security situation with U.S. citizens in Ukraine on Tuesday.

Discussions on the matter have been underway for some time, but Blinken went over the contingency plans with the embassy’s security team when he visited Kyiv on Wednesday, officials said.

The officials stressed that no decisions had yet been made and that an outright evacuation is not being considered. One possible scenario would be to order the families of American personnel to leave the country while allowing non-essential staffers to depart voluntarily at government expense, they said.

___

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India boosts military presence as
border talks with China remain stalled


On volatile border between India and China, a high-altitude military buildup is underway

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A close-up of a heliport under construction in Rutog County.

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On volatile border between India and China, a high-altitude military buildup is underway

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Construction crews are now scattered around Ladakh as Indian authorities speed up their infrastructure race with China.

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An overview of a heliport under construction near Aksai Chin Lake, in a region administered by China but contested by India, on May 28.

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An overview of a heliport under construction in Rutog County in the Ngari Prefecture of the Tibet Autonomous Region of China, on Nov. 28.

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BEIJING’S ISLAND-BUILDING IN THE SOUTH CHINA SEA

Runway

Runway

China is expanding the construction of its facilities on Fiery Cross Reef. Provided by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), this June 28, 2015 photo reveals Beijing has nearly completed a 3,000 meter (9,800-foot) airstrip, long enough to accommodate most Chinese military aircraft. Two h...

Expansion

Expansion

Reclamation on Fiery Cross Reef, which lies on the west side of the Spratly Islands, began in August of 2014 and its principal landmass was finished by November. Dredgers have created a land mass that spans the entire existing reef and is approximately 3,000 meters long and 200-300 meters wide.

Facilities

Facilities

This picture taken last November shows construction work being carried out on Fiery Cross Reef. The reef reportedly already houses a helicopter landing pad, a 300-meter-long wharf, a harbor large enough to dock military tankers, barracks and artillery emplacements.

South Johnson Reef

South Johnson Reef

This reef was one of the first facilities to finish principal land reclamation. This recent picture shows that a radar tower is nearing completion at the north end of the land mass. According to AMTI, a new large multi-level military facility has been built in the center of the island. Up to six sur...

A naval base?

A naval base?

Beginning in early 2015, Mischief Reef - also located in the Spratlys - has undergone extensive reclamation activity. Experts say that the recent widening of the southern entrance to the reef, coupled with sightings of Chinese navy vessels, may suggest a future role for the reclaimed reef as a naval...

From reef to island

From reef to island

Significant construction on Gaven Reef began in 2014, with a total of 114,000 square meters of land already created. Satellite pictures show just how fast construction has progressed on the reef. A new artificial island was created between March (left) and August (right) 2014.

Troop garrison

Troop garrison

According to AMTI, China has had a troop garrison on Gaven Reef since 2003, which has included a large supply platform where ships can dock. Experts say a new main square building in the reef appears to be an anti-aircraft tower.

A standardized process

A standardized process

As seen in this image, the basic process of expanding these features involves dredging sand from the seafloor and dumping it onto the reefs. The structure is raised above the high water line, hiding the status of the bank or reef beneath. The sand is then smoothed out and workers surround the island...

'Historic rights'

'Historic rights'

China claims most of the potentially energy-rich waterway, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. The US Pacific Fleet commander recently said China was "creating a great wall of sand" in the South China Sea, causing serious concerns about its territorial intentions. Beijin...

Territorial disputes

Territorial disputes

The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims, which have led to territorial disputes in the area. Last summer, China's deployment of a massive oil rig in waters also claimed by Hanoi escalated tensions in the region, sparking a standoff at sea and violent anti-C...

US concerns

US concerns

Washington is concerned China's efforts carry a military dimension that could undermine the US' naval and economic power in the Pacific, and has weighed sending warships and surveillance aircraft within 12 nautical miles of the new artificial islands. Washington has repeatedly called on Beijing and ...

Ecological impact

Ecological impact

The Philippines filed a formal plea at the UN last year, challenging Beijing's territorial claims. Manila said China's reclamation activities are causing "irreversible and widespread damage to the biodiversity and ecological balance of the South China Sea." It also claimed that the destruction of co...

Runway Expansion Facilities South Johnson Reef A naval base? From reef to island Troop garrison A standardized process 'Historic rights' Territorial disputes US concerns Ecological impact

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